All mothers and most fathers are automatically guardians of their child at birth. If a couple splits up, they stay guardians of their children and should make guardianship decisions together if possible to guide their child's upbringing and development.
Other adults can be made a child’s guardian by the Family Court. This could be a grandparent or a parent’s new partner.
A child can have more than 1 guardian.
A child’s parents are also known as natural guardians.
Other people can apply to the Family Court to be a child’s guardian. This includes a grandparent or other relative, or a parent’s new partner.
The Family Court can also appoint a guardian without an application being made. This can happen if:
A parent can name a person in their will (or another formal legal document) to be a testamentary guardian if the parent dies. A testamentary guardian's role is similar to other guardians of the child except they don’t have the right to day-to-day care of the child.
The High Court or Family Court can sometimes appoint itself as a child’s legal guardian. The court usually appoints Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children to be the guardian as an agent of the court. The people who can ask the court to do this are:
You might find it useful to talk to a lawyer about guardianship. If you can’t afford a lawyer:
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