Susan and John have recently separated. They have two young daughters, Sonia and Kate, who are 7 and 4 respectively. Susan and John have been unable to reach a care arrangement for the girls, and John is only having limited contact with them. John is growing impatient with the lack of progress and wants to get some assistance to move things along.

If there are no serious risks to the children in the current arrangements, then John should commence the pre-Court process for resolving such disputes. The steps he needs to take first are to:

  1. complete a parenting through separation programme (PTS); and
  2. attend family dispute resolution (FDR).


PTS is a programme aimed at educating parents about the effects of separation on their children, provides them with skills to help reduce their child's stress during separation, and discusses the Family Justice system and how it works.

The programme is free to attend and is held in one 4 hour session, or in two sessions of 2 hours.


In FDR, a qualified mediator will help the parties identify the issues in dispute, facilitate discussion, and assist them to try to reach a child care arrangement by agreement. FDR focusses on achieving a lasting outcome and provides parents with the skills to resolve future problems themselves, without needing to obtain outside assistance.

The fee for FDR is $897.00, and parents will usually share the cost.

In some situations, FDR will not be appropriate for example, in cases where a child’s safety is at risk or where there has been domestic violence between the parents. In these circumstances, the parties will be able to file an application in the Family Court without delay.

Once John and Susan complete their PTS courses and attend FDR, they will either have agreed on a care arrangement, which can be formally recorded, in a parenting agreement or parenting order, or they will need some further assistance to apply to the Family Court to resolve their dispute.

There is a three-track system for court proceedings:

(a)       Fast track;

(b)       Simple track; or

(c)       Standard track.

Most parenting matters will proceed on the standard track. Lawyers are excluded from acting on the standard track until part way through the Family Court process, but are often instructed to assist parents behind the scenes for example by drafting applications and helping them through the process.

The simple track is for matters being resolved by agreement, and the fast track is for urgent matters which allow parties to skip the PTS and FDR requirements, and file urgent Court proceedings, which can be with the assistance of lawyers.

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.