Family Law 2017-05-19T12:17:27+00:00

Family Law

Keeping Your Property Safe / Contracting Out Agreements

If you are married or in a de facto relationship and do not want assets to be shared equally between you and your partner if you separate, then you need a Contracting Out Agreement.

A Contracting Out Agreement is a written agreement between you and your partner that sets out how your property is to be divided if you were to separate in the future. Unless you have a formal written agreement, you may find that your partner is able to claim half, or in some cases more than half, of what you may consider your separate property.

Such an agreement will only be valid if it is in writing and if you and your partner each receive independent legal advice and your lawyer certifies the agreement.

We can help you to prepare a Contracting Out Agreement. We can also help by providing you with independent legal advice regarding an agreement that another lawyer has prepared.

Separation Agreements / Division of Relationship Property

If you and your partner separate, you may need to decide how your property will be divided. There are many rules about the division of property which apply when a couple separate.

We can help with initial appointments to discuss how these rules may apply to you and what information needs to be gathered.

Many people are then able to reach an agreement about how they wish to divide property between them. In order to be binding, these agreements need to be in writing and both you and your partner need to receive independent legal advice.

We can help you to prepare a formal agreement recording your agreed division of property and provide you with independent legal advice. We can also provide you with independent legal advice regarding an agreement that has been prepared by another lawyer.

Some people are not able to reach an agreement about the division of property. We can help to negotiate an agreement. If that is not possible, then we can help you apply to the Family Court seeking a division of property.

If you have assets that are owned by a Family Trust or by a company, we are able to assist to divide or administer these assets.

If the result of your agreement is that ownership of your home or other property needs to be transferred and there is bank lending to be documented, we can help with that too.

If you are in a relationship and would like to keep some or all, of what you consider to be your property separate, take a look at Keeping Your Property Separate / Contracting Out Agreements

Dissolutions (Divorce)

Dissolution of marriage is the way the Family Court describes what is commonly referred to as a “divorce.” This is a Court Order legally ending a marriage relationship. If you wish to remarry, then you need a Court Order dissolving your previous marriage.

We can assist you and your partner by preparing and signing the necessary Court application and supporting evidence and can guide you through the Court process.

If your partner does not agree to sign the documents or you are unsure where your partner lives, you can still apply for an Order dissolving your marriage. We can help you with that.

Adoption

By applying to adopt a child you are asking the Court to legally replace the birth parents with you/and your partner. The child’s surname is automatically replaced with your surname. You can also change the child’s first names if you wish.

We can help you to prepare an application to the Family Court to adopt a child and support you through the Court process.

If you are a birth parent who agrees to your child being adopted, or if you want more detailed information about what adoption means, we can explain the relevant law to you.

Sometimes adoption is not the right path for your family. An alternative may be to apply for Orders regarding the Care of Children (custody and access) and Guardianship

Guardianship

A child’s guardians are the people who make the major decisions for that child. This includes matters relating to where a child lives, their education, religion, changing a child’s name, medical treatment and moving the child permanently from the area where they reside, either within New Zealand or overseas. Therefore, it is important to think about who should be a guardian and what decisions they will be required to make.

We can provide you with advice regarding guardianship matters.

We can help you to apply to the Family Court to appoint additional guardians for a child or to remove a guardian.

If guardians do not agree, then we can help you to negotiate a solution. If you disagree with a major decision in your child’s life or feel that your views are not being taken into account, you should contact us.

If necessary, we can help you to apply to the Court to determine a dispute between guardians. This could, for example, include an application to relocate children to live in a different place.

Care of Children (Custody and Access)

If you and your partner separate, you will need to decide how you are going to look after your child or children. These matters used to be called “custody” and “access.”

The Family Court can now make Parenting Orders for the day-to-day care and contact arrangements for children.

If you and your partner agree about the care arrangements for your children, we can help to prepare a Childcare Agreement outside of the Family Court process recording what you have agreed. Alternatively, we can apply to the Family Court for a Court Order setting out the agreed care arrangements for your children.

If you do not agree about the care arrangements for your children, we can help you to try to resolve these matters. If necessary, we can assist you to apply to the Family Court for a Parenting Order determining the care arrangements for your children and we can assist you through the Family Court process.

Conditions can be attached to contact to ensure that children are safe. For example, contact can be supervised if there has been domestic violence or if there are concerns about alcohol/drug use, or mental health concerns. We can help you to find a care arrangement that works for your children.

If there are urgent concerns for the safety of the children, we can assist you to obtain urgent Parenting Orders. It is possible to obtain a Parenting Order on the same day you instruct us if there are urgent safety concerns.

If you are concerned that an existing care arrangement or Parenting Order is not being complied with, there are options available to enforce Parenting Orders. We can advise you regarding these options.

Child Support

Child support is money payable to assist with the care of your children. The child support scheme is primarily administered by the Inland Revenue Department. For an indication on how much child support a parent will have to pay, call the IRD on
0800 221 221 or look up child support on the IRD website: www.ird.govt.nz

If you are unhappy with a child support assessment or review decision made by the Inland Revenue Department it is possible to apply to the Family Court asking them to consider the issue of child support. We can help you with those applications. If you have been served with a Court application relating to child support, we can help you with that.

We also advise parents who live overseas regarding the payment of child support in New Zealand and can assist where provisional Court Orders have been made overseas. If the other parent lives outside of New Zealand, we may also be able to help.

Child Youth and Family Service Proceedings

Child Youth and Family Services (which are part of the Ministry of Social Development) can become involved where there are care and protection concerns regarding children. Child Youth and Family Services can remove children from the care of their parents where there are urgent concerns, either by agreement, or by obtaining an Order from the Family Court. Decisions then need to be made about whether children should remain in the care of Child Youth and Family Services and the level of contact between children and their parents.

We can help you with any Court proceedings involving Child Youth and Family Services. If you are worried about the involvement of Child Youth and Family Services with your family, we can also advise you about that.

If you are the caregiver of children placed with you by Child Youth and Family Services and you would like to apply to the Family Court for Orders relating to Guardianship and the Care of Children (custody and access), then we can help you with that. Often Child Youth and Family Services will meet the legal fees associated with the Court applications.

Domestic Violence

If you are a victim of domestic violence from your partner, a family member, or a close friend, we can assist you to apply to the Family Court for a Protection Order protecting you from that person. Where there are urgent concerns it is possible for us to assist you to apply to the Family Court asking for a Protection Order to be made on the same day.

We can also assist you to apply for an Occupation Order enabling you to live in your family home without the violent person and for a Furniture Order enabling you to have the use of the furniture in the family home.

If you have been served with a Protection Order, an Occupation Order or a Furniture Order or an application for any of those Orders, then we can help you to respond to the Court applications. You are often given a short time to respond to the Court applications, so please contact us as quickly as possible.

If you have children, we can also help you with matters relating to the Care of Children (custody and access).

Non-Removal Orders (Hague Convention)

If you are worried that your children may be taken outside of New Zealand without your consent, we can help you to apply to the Family Court for an Order preventing your children travelling outside of New Zealand. An Order preventing removal can be provided to Interpol and a block placed on your children’s passports preventing them from leaving New Zealand.

A Non-Removal Order can be obtained urgently. It is possible for an Order to be obtained on the same day that you instruct us if there are urgent concerns that a child may be removed from New Zealand.

If you have an Order preventing the removal of children from New Zealand and you agree that your children should holiday overseas, we can assist you to apply to the Family Court either to discharge the Non-Removal Order or to vary it to enable the agreed holiday to take place.

If your children have been taken outside of New Zealand without your knowledge or consent, then it may be possible for you to apply under the Hague Convention to have your children returned to New Zealand. The Hague Convention is an international convention which deals with disputes regarding children who have been taken overseas. While not all countries have signed the Hague Convention, many have, including Australia and the United Kingdom.

Protection of Personal and Property Rights (PPPR) Applications

Sometimes decisions need to be made for people who are not able to make those decisions themselves due to a medical condition. This can include the elderly, those who suffer from a stroke or head injury, people with an intellectual disability or another medical condition.

Where a person is not able to make decisions for themselves about their property, finances, medical treatment or care and they do not have an Enduring Power of Attorney in place; it is possible to apply to the Family Court for an Order appointing another person to make those decisions. We can help with these applications.

If you have been appointed a Property Manager, Property Administrator or Welfare Guardian and the Orders you have are about to expire, we can help to apply to the Court for further Orders.