Making decisions about your children

As a parent or guardian, you will work with other people to make decisions about your children.

This includes making decisions about your children's schools, holidays, healthcare, religion, culture and language, and where they live.

The making a parenting plan workbook [PDF, 1.9 MB] will help you work through all the decisions about your children that you and your ex-partner need to agree on.

If you and your ex-partner can’t agree about care arrangements, you can get help with resolving parenting disagreements

On this page:

Who can make decisions about children

A legal guardian is an adult who can make decisions about the child. This includes decisions about the child’s care and upbringing. All mothers and most fathers are automatically guardians of their child at birth.

If a couple breaks up, they’re both still guardians of their children and should make decisions about their children’s care together.

A guardian has a legal right to have a say in all important decisions about the child’s upbringing. This includes decisions about education, health, living arrangements, religion, culture, language, holidays, and other important matters to do with their welfare, as well as any changes to the child’s name.

Find out who can be a guardian

To find out more about a guardian’s responsibilities see the Community Law Manual(external link)

Where the children live and relocating

Decisions about where children live are a guardianship issue.

Moving somewhere else in New Zealand with your children is called relocating. You and your ex-partner should try to agree on where the child should live without involving the court. Once you agree, you could write the arrangements in a Parenting Plan

For more information about out-of-court services to help you reach an agreement go to resolving parenting disagreements 

If you can’t agree on these decisions out-of-court, you can apply to the Family Court

Relocation overseas

If you’re concerned about someone else taking your children overseas, you can apply to the Family Court for an Order Preventing Removal

For more information, see Get a child returned to New Zealand

and Community Law Manual, Parents, Guardians & Caregivers: Relocation disputes and international child abduction. (external link)