When parents separate there are a number of possible ways in which they can divide responsibility for the care of their children. They might decide to share day-to-day care. Or they might decide that one parent only will provide day-to-day care, with the other having regular contact with the children (see How to apply for a parenting order for day-to-day care (custody) of a child).
If only one parent has day-to-day care and the other parent feels he or she does not have adequate contact with the child, the other parent can apply to the Family Court for a parenting order that provides for him or her to have contact with the child.
Care arrangements for children are governed by the CARE OF CHILDREN ACT 2004, which came into force on 1 July 2005. Under the previous Act, the GUARDIANSHIP ACT 1968, "day-to-day care" was called "custody", and "contact" with children was called "access" to children.
You will need a lawyer to help you apply for a parenting order. It would be unusual for a person to apply and go through the court process without a lawyer.
Application forms for parenting orders are available on the Family Court website at www.justice.govt.nz/family, under Legislation & legal resources / Forms.
The first and most important factor is always what is the child's best interests. The court normally sees it as being in children's best interests for them to have contact with both parents. However, there are many considerations that the court will take into account, including:
If the parenting order provides for you to have contact with your child, it can specify â€“
The order can also include specific contact arrangements for holidays, birthdays and other special days.
You may apply for the court to change ("vary") an existing parenting order if circumstances change â€“ for example, if your child and the parent who has day-to-day care move away.
The following people can apply:
Certain other people can apply if one of the parents â€“
The other people who can apply in those cases are as follows:
Yes. You or anyone else who was a party to the case can appeal the order to the High Court. The child can also appeal.
The other parent commits an offence if, without a reasonable excuse, he or she intentionally hinders or prevents you having contact with your child as provided for under a parenting order. A person convicted of this can be fined up to $2,500 or jailed for up to three months.
However, the Family Court encourages people to work out disputes themselves. If you believe the other parent has breached the parenting order, you can ask the court to arrange free and confidential counselling so that you can try to sort the matter out. If you apply to the court for it to enforce the parenting order, it will usually refer you to counselling anyway as a first step.
If counselling doesn't resolve the problem, the court can do various things to address it â€“
If a parent has applied for a parenting order and one of them claims that the other has been violent towards them or the child, the Family Court will hear from both sides and decide whether or not the claim is true.
If it decides the claim is true, the Court will normally require any contact between the child and the person who has been violent to be supervised by an organisation that provides supervised contact services, or by a particular person that the court chooses â€“ for example, a relative or a family friend. The court may also require contact to be supervised while a claim of violence is waiting to be heard by the court.
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