Enforce a court order

People must do what a court Order says. It’s a serious matter if you don’t follow a court Order.

If someone isn't following an Order, you can ask the Family Court to take action. Generally, the court will only do this after you’ve tried to work things out with your ex-partner.

Apply for urgent help to enforce a court Order

You can apply for urgent help if:

  • your personal safety is at risk
  • the personal safety of any of your children is at risk
  • there’s a risk of serious injury or undue hardship for you or your children
  • there’s a risk that someone could take your child out of New Zealand without your permission.

If the court needs to make a decision urgently (without notice), it can make an Interim Order before the other person gets to have their say.

If you think you need urgent help, you may find it helpful to see a lawyer about making an urgent application for you. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may be able to get legal aid or free community legal help

Find out more about urgent help

On this page:

Work it out between yourselves

The first step, if you can do this safely, is to talk with the person who isn't following the Order. They may have a good reason why they’re having problems following it.

To help you both work things out, it may be helpful to go to:

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If you can’t agree – apply to the Family Court

If you can’t agree, or it’s not safe for you to try, you can apply to the Family Court to enforce the Court Order.

How to apply to the court to enforce an Order

  1. Fill in the form in the form generator(external link) Select the Order that the other person hasn't followed in the first box, and then ‘Enforcement for a breach’ in the second box.
  2. If you want the Police, a social worker or someone else to pick the children up from the other person, you can add ‘Issue a warrant’ to the same form. The court won't issue a warrant to pick up a child who is 16 or older unless the case is exceptional.
  3. File your application - you'll need to do this yourself. You can’t get a lawyer to file an application to enforce an Order unless it’s urgent. Find out more about how to file documents

Where to get help

If you need help to fill in the forms, you can call us or visit your local court

Find out more about affidavits and statutory declarations

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What the Family Court can do

If the court is satisfied that someone is not doing what an Order says, it can do any of the following things:

  • admonish them (give them a warning) – the person is reprimanded in court
  • change the Order – the court can change or cancel the Parenting Order (for example, it could reduce the amount of time the person has caring for the child)
  • require a bond – the court can tell the person to pay money to the court as a bond, which they could lose if they continue to disobey the Order
  • order compensation – if you have to spend money because of the breach (such as pay for travel ), the court can order the person who breached the Order to pay you some money
  • enforce care or contact – if the other person is preventing you from having day-to-day care or contact with the children as agreed in the Parenting Order, the court can order the Police or a social worker to pick up the children and deliver them to you
  • press criminal charges – if the person still doesn’t follow the Order, then they may get charged with a crime and could be fined or jailed.

The court can also issue a warrant for the Police, social worker or someone else to pick the children up if:

  • a person is seeing or caring for your children when a Parenting Order says they can’t
  • a person doesn't follow a Supervised Contact Order (which only allows that person to see the children while someone else is supervising).

If this person tries to stop the children being returned, a police officer, social worker or someone else named in the warrant is allowed to use reasonable force if necessary to enter a property and pick up the children.

It's a criminal offence for anyone to stop, or try to stop, someone with a warrant from picking up children. It's also a criminal offence not to let them in straight away when they come to the door. If convicted of this offence, a person can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to $2500.

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