Free counselling is available through the Family Court.  Counselling can help you and your ex-partner/spouse improve the issues in your relationship, and you may decide to work on your marriage or relationship and stay together. Alternatively, counselling can also be used to help make decisions regarding separation easier.  At counselling you can talk about care arrangements for your children, dividing property, where you both will live and any other issues.  One of the most difficult decisions for parents at counselling is related to the care of the children.  The term “care” may include guardianship, day-to-day care (formerly custody) and contact (formerly access).


Both parents are usually guardians of their children.  If you are a guardian of a child, this means you have the right:

  • To have day-to-day care of the child.
  • Of control over the upbringing of the child – which means having an input into the important decisions about the child’s life such as religion, education, major medical treatment and the child’s name.

Day-to-Day Care

New law has abolished the term “custody” and replaced it with “day-to-day care”.  Day-to-day care includes care that is provided only for one or more specified days or parts of days.

Often parents decide at counselling who will have day-to-day care of the child, and there is no need for any further intervention. Often separating couples find it difficult to decide who the children will live with after separation. We are able to assist you with these problems by firstly helping you negotiate with the other party.  If that does not work we, can help you go to the Family Court for assistance.  If counselling does not resolve the issues the Court also offers a mediation service and as a last resort you can ask a judge to decide on the best arrangements for your child.

There are different types of day-to-day care – some parents like to have one parent as the primary caregiver, whereas other parents may share day-to-day care in forms such as week-about, month-about or even half week-about.  We can discuss these and other options with you to help you decide what is best for your child.


New child law has also abolished the term “access” and replaced it with “contact”.  Contact, in relation to a child, includes all forms of direct and indirect interaction with the child.  Contact is usually worked out at the same time as day-to-day care and the same options for resolving caregiving disputes apply to resolving contact issues.

Domestic Violence

Protection orders can be obtained against people whom the Applicant has been in a domestic relationship with, and who have acted violently towards them.  A protection order prohibits the violent person from contacting the protected person in any way.  This non-contact includes threatening the person, damaging the persons property, or encouraging anyone else to physically or psychologically abuse anyone protected by a protection order.  This contact stops someone from following you, telephoning you, or writing to you.  Any contact or attempted contact by the violent party is a criminal offence where a protection order has been made.

Domestic Violence does not only include physical violence, it also includes emotional, sexual and psychological abuse.

The Court can make a protection order if it is satisfied that there was a domestic relationship, that there has been domestic violence, and that an order is needed to protect you.

We can help people make applications for orders, and also defending orders which may have been made.

How to Get a Divorce

Parties to a marriage can get a divorce after they have lived apart for two years.  Once they have lived apart for two years, they can apply to the Family Court for a dissolution order.  We are able to help you with this, and prepare the necessary forms.

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.