A guardian is a person who is responsible for a child’s care, development and upbringing.  That typically includes providing the necessities like a safe and secure home, as well as providing for their mental, emotional, physical, social and cultural development. 

Guardians can make decisions about where children live, their education, medical treatment, their culture, language and religion, as well as their names or changes to their names. 

What are the types of guardians?  Who can be a guardian?

The mother of a child will automatically be a guardian.  A father who lives with the child’s mother at any time between conception and birth, or who have their name on a child’s birth certificate, will also be a guardian.  Mothers and fathers are called natural guardians.

The Court can also appoint a number of other people as guardians.  Parents can ask the Court to appoint a new partner as an additional guardian of their child.  Where a parent is unwilling or unable to perform their guardianship role, the Court can appoint an additional guardian (for instance a grandparent or other family member). 

If there are care and protection concerns, the Court is also able to appoint Oranga Tamariki to act as an additional guardian of the child (on behalf of the Court). 

A guardian has the ability to appoint a testamentary guardian in their will, and this person will then assume the role if the guardian dies while the child is under the age of 18.

How do guardians make decisions?

Guardians have to make decisions together by agreement.  That will usually require the guardians to share information with each other, and to talk about what is in line with the welfare and best interest of the child.  

What happens if guardians do not agree?

If guardians cannot agree, they can ask the Court to decide (by making a Guardianship Order).  Guardianship Orders can be made for children who are under 18 years of age. 

It is also possible for guardians to attend Family Disputes Resolution (“FDR”) in order to work through any disagreements they may have. Read more about FDR.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.