Help & support > FAQs

Being a parent

  • Oranga Tamariki (OT) get involved when the Police or a member of the public reports that they’re concerned about the care and/or protection of a child. The law says one or more of the following in section 14 of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 must be met for there to be care and protection concerns:

    • The child is being, or likely being, harmed (physically, emotionally or sexually);
    • The child’s parents or guardians are unwilling or unable to care for the child; or
    • The child’s development, physical or mental or emotional well-being is or is likely to be impaired or neglected.

    Different types of concerns will have different responses or plans from OT to keep children/tamariki safe.

    You can seek legal advice from a family lawyer if you’re unsure what your rights are.

  • A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a legal family/whānau meeting where the family/whānau and other support people make a plan to keep the children/tamariki safe. Sometimes the children/tamariki will still be living with their parent(s), and other times they may have been removed from their care. A FGC is run by a FGC Co-ordinator, and they speak with family/whānau about who else should attend the meeting, as well as the Oranga Tamariki (OT) social worker.

    If everyone agrees on a plan for the children/tamariki, it gets monitored by the OT social worker and there might be another FGC in a few months to see how things are going.
    If not everyone agrees on a plan or anyone doesn’t believe the children/tamariki need care and protection, the FGC must end. After that the OT social worker must write a report for the Family Court about what the plan for the children/tamariki will be. The Family Court Judge decides about things like who the children/tamariki live with, the contact they have with their parents and other family/whānau, and what services and support they need.

  • Here are some parenting courses that are available around Aotearoa/New Zealand:

    • Incredible Years – a programme for parents/caregivers of children/tamariki ages 3-8 to grow positive parenting skills
    • Toolbox – courses from baby to teenage years to learn about topics such as parenting styles, understanding your parenting and setting boundaries
    • Triple P – positive parenting programme for baby to teenage years
    • LEAP – a service for children/tamariki and families facing multiple challenges, which could include family violence

    If you google these courses along with your location you’ll find the organisation in your area that delivers the programmes. There are lots of other local courses that may be suited to you as well, and some courses are available online if you’re unable to get there in person.

  • The Kaiārahi helps families/whānau with information, guidance, and support on their journey through the Family Court. They don’t give legal advice. They can:

    • Help you understand what everything means
    • Access services in the community (with your consent)
    • Help to work through any challenges for you to participate in the Family Court.

    You can speak with them by visiting the main counter at your local Court, calling 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) or emailing kaiā

  • Child support is money paid by parents who do not live with their children/tamariki, or who share care with someone else. This money is to help with the cost of raising a child.
    If you receive a sole parent benefit, you will need to complete a child support application as part of your benefit application and Work and Income will collect any child support payable.
    There are three different ways of setting up child support payments:

    • Formula assessment: If you’re on a Sole Parent Support or receive an Unsupported Child’s Benefit, you’ll need to apply for the formula assessment
    • Voluntary agreement: Both parents decide the amount, register the agreement with Inland Revenue Department (IRD) and they manage the payments
    • Private agreement: Both parents decide the amount and manage the payments without IRD.
  • All mothers and most fathers are automatically guardians of their children/tamariki at birth. If a couple breaks up, they’ll still be guardians of their children/tamariki and should try to make decisions together about their children's/tamariki wellbeing.

    A Guardian is an adult who’s responsible for decisions about a child’s wellbeing. This includes making decisions about their schools, healthcare, religion, culture, and language, and about where they live. The Family Court can make another adult a child’s guardian. This person could be a grandparent, aunty, or family/whānau friend. A child can have more than one guardian.

  • A Parenting Order is an order made by the Family Court, with details about who will have day to day care of a child, and who can have contact with a child (sometimes including specific dates and times).

    In most cases, before applying for a Parenting Order, you need to try to resolve disputes about care of children/tamariki through the Family Dispute Resolution mediation process. This is when a mediator helps you and your ex-partner or those involved in the care of your children/tamariki to come to an agreement about care arrangements for them. A mediator will help you to share your viewpoints and focus on what’s best for your children/tamariki. They don’t decide for you. The process can be done over the phone and the mediators walk you through every step. They can stop or put the process on hold if you want them to. If the other parent doesn’t want to or can’t participate in mediation, you can get a certificate that says you tried to do mediation before applying to Court.

    Another step that is usually needed before applying for a Parenting Order is completing the Parenting Through Separation course. It’s a free course (4 hours total) that helps parents to figure out how to manage their children’s/tamariki needs after separating. The separated parents should attend different courses, and they’re available in a variety of sessions including daytime, evening, and weekends.

  • Family Court deals with applications for care of children/tamariki, Protection Orders, and marriage separation.  Court staff can tell you what to do, including which form you’ll need, and explain court processes. They can’t tell you what to say on your forms and they can’t give you legal advice.
    If you’re on a low income, you may be able to get some legal advice and help for free through Family Legal Advice Service to help you understand:

    • your rights and responsibilities with your children/tamariki
    • your legal options for their care
    • what Family Justice services, including the Family Court, are available and how they can help.

    You can get this help from the Family Legal Advice Service any time before going to court. The lawyer can also help you to fill out the court forms if you're applying for a Parenting Order or responding to an application for a Parenting Order.