Reaching agreement about care and contact arrangements for your children can be a difficult task. Following a recent law change, lawyers are now able to help separated parents through the Family Court process when the proceedings have been commenced under the Care of Children Act 2004 (“the Act”) on a non-urgent basis “on notice”.
Previously, parents involved in the Family Court in relation to childcare matters were only able to have assistance from a lawyer when an application had been made on an urgent basis “without notice” or where a Judge permitted.
Essentially, this change allows you to have legal assistance from the outset of Family Court matters, which will ensure you can be fully informed before making any application and know what your rights and obligations are in respect of your children.
However, it is important to note that before making any non-urgent application under the Act in relation to your children, the Court requires you to have attended (or at least be enrolled in) the Parenting Through Separation Course (“PTS”) and to have attempted mediation (“FDR”) with the other party involved. If the other party has declined to participate in mediation, then FDR will issue an exemption certificate, which you are able to attach to your application. There may also be situations where FDR is not appropriate and if this is the case, you are able to ask the Court to allow you to be exempt from attending.
The Ministry of Justice provides a helpful tool to assist you with finding your closest FDR and PTS provider. You can find this here.
Family Legal Advice Services
We are also able to provide advice about care of children matters through the Family Legal Advice Service (“FLAS”). This service is intended to provide you with initial advice (prior to any Court proceedings) and help you understand your rights, and responsibilities under the law and discuss the options available to you to assist with any childcare issues you may have. It can also be helpful to get initial advice before participating in the mediation process. You can give one of our family lawyers a call to discuss whether you are financially eligible for FLAS.
Alternatively, if you are not eligible for FLAS, we also offer an initial consultation process for people who need some advice and guidance on where they stand.
Legal aid is also now available for care of children proceedings that are commenced on a non-urgent basis under the Act. If you would like further information about legal aid, you can read more about it here.
For more information
For more information around childcare issues or any questions you may have about the family court or mediation process, please contact our Wellington based family lawyers:
Debbie Dunbar | 04 495 9940 | Debbie.firstname.lastname@example.org
Maretta Twentyman | 04 495 8918 | Maretta.email@example.com
Anna Chapman | 04 495 8905 | Anna.firstname.lastname@example.org
Racheal Allison | 04 495 9949 | Racheal.email@example.com
Not sure what kind of assistance you need? We have a range of practical resources on our website to help point you in the right direction.