If your relationship ends, you need to try to resolve child custody arrangements yourselves before you can go to court.
Working out custody
You can apply for an urgent custody order if you or your children are at risk of domestic violence, or if your children are being taken out of New Zealand without your agreement.
It's best if you can agree directly with your partner who'll take care of your children when you separate. If you can’t agree on custody, you have to follow a process to try and resolve it yourselves before it gets to court.
1. Complete a parenting through separation course
This free course helps parents focus on the needs of children. You have to do this first.
2. Mediation run by a family dispute resolution service provider
If you can't agree on custody after completing the parenting through separation course, you'll work with a mediator to help you decide together how your children will be cared for. There's a cost for mediation, but some people qualify for funding.
3. Apply to the Family Court
If you still can't agree after completing the course and mediation, you can apply to the Family Court to make a custody order.
In most cases, lawyers aren't allowed to be present at the first hearing, so you need to have an understanding of how things work.
For more information call the family justice help line on 0800 224 733.
Help for kids
Information that's written for kids to help them understand what's going on when their parents separate.