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Child custody

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.

When you can apply without notice

It’s best if you can agree directly with your partner who’ll take care of your children when you separate. If you cannot 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.

Parenting through separation programme

2. Mediation run by a family dispute resolution service provider

If you cannot 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.

Family dispute resolution

Funding eligibility tool

3. Apply to the Family Court

If you still cannot agree after completing the course and mediation, you can apply to the Family Court to make a custody order.

Applying to the Family Court

A lawyer may represent you at any time during the process.

Settling a dispute about children in court

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.

Children’s guide to separation (PDF 2.2MB)

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