When you don't agree on care

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When you don’t agree on how to care for your children, there are a number of services that can help, such as Parenting through Separation, Family Dispute Resolution and the Family Legal Advice Service.

If you still can’t agree after trying these, you can ask the Family Court to make a decision for you.

Try to reach agreement out of court

Parenting Through Separation

Parenting Through Separation is a free 4-hour course to help you understand and manage the effects of separation on your children. It includes tips for talking with your children and your ex-partner and how to manage shared care. You and your ex-partner attend separately. 

Family Dispute Resolution

Family Dispute Resolution can help you and the other parent or whānau members involved in the care of your children work through any disagreements about your care arrangements. An impartial mediator meets with you, runs the session/s and makes sure each person gets time to put forward their point of view. The mediator will help you focus on what is best for your children but will not force you to agree to anything or make a decision for you.

Family Dispute Resolution is free if you’re on a low income. 

Family Legal Advice Service

Family Legal Advice Service can help with advice about your options regarding the care of your children and can also help with filling out forms if you are making a court application.  You can use this free service if you qualify for funding (on a low income). 

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Ask the Family Court to decide

If you've tried to reach agreement out of court but still can't agree, the Family Court can make decisions about the care of your children. the Court can only make orders if it is in the welfare and best interest of the children involved as well as taking the children's views into account.

If you want to ask the Family Court for a Court Order about the care of your children, in most cases you’ll need to have done Parenting Through Separation and tried Family Dispute Resolution first.

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Legal help & advice

You can get a family lawyer’s advice at any time but you need to do some things yourself in the early parts of some court processes.

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If it’s urgent

If there is domestic violence or you believe your children are at risk, you can apply to the court for an urgent (without notice) decision. The court can make an Interim Order while you sort out longer-term arrangements.

If you think you need urgent help, it is best to see a lawyer about making an urgent application for you.

Find out more about urgent help

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How to reach agreement about your children’s care – flowchart

 Flowchart: How to reach agreement about your children’s careView larger image [JPG, 338 KB]

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