There have been some major changes to our Family Court recently,  most of which affect matters related to children.

If you cannot agree on childcare arrangements, or if you have a guardianship dispute then you need to be aware of the options that are now available to resolve that disagreement.

In most cases, before you can make an application to a Family Court you must first go through the Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) service.  FDR is a mediation service.  Some people will be eligible for funding of FDR – eligibility for FDR is based on income.

If your matter is urgent, or in some other limited circumstances, you may be exempt from FDR and be able to apply directly to the Court.  However, FDR will be the norm. More information on this process. 

Given the importance of the FDR process it is a good idea to obtain legal advice about your rights, obligations and options prior to that process.   Some people may also be funded for legal advice prior to FDR, again depending on income.

Parents will be expected to attend a Parenting Information Programme before engaging the Family Court to assist with any disputes. Read information about these programme's.

If you have been through FDR and are eligible to apply to the Court, in most circumstances you will have to file the application yourself and will not be allowed a lawyer to represent you in Court.  This can be daunting and in many cases you will only get one chance at filing your evidence, so it is advisable to obtain legal assistance with preparing your documents.

Despite the changes to the Family Justice system, lawyers can still assist with the following:

  1. Advising regarding childcare and guardianship following separation;
  2. Providing information as to your rights and obligations;
  3. Providing information about the various options available to you to resolve a dispute;
  4. Assisting with resolving disputes outside of the family justice processes;
  5. Assisting with preparation for FDR;
  6. Assisting with drafting documents if you need to file an application in court;
  7. Representing you in court if allowed by the rules or by a Judge (for example, at a defended hearing you would be allowed a lawyer to represent you).

If you would like assistance and/or further information about childcare or guardianship matters, please contact our family law team on (04) 473 6850.


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.