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Parenting and Guardianship Disputes – changes to the Family Court

The Family Court underwent some significant changes in 2014, particularly in the area of parenting and guardianship disputes.

As a general rule, if there are no safety issues affecting the child or children most parenting and guardianship disputes are now required to be mediated before recourse to the Family Court is available.  We are able to give pre-mediation advice and assistance to clients, and if you meet the financial criteria[1], this advice can be provided at no cost to you.  Contact us if you wish to find out more about the mediation process, including whether you will be eligible for the Free Legal Assistance Service (FLAS) and how to initiate mediation.

If there are safety issues for the child or children or your dispute is not resolved in mediation, you can apply to Court.  In most circumstances, you will also have to complete a Parenting Through Separation course before applying to the Court.  These courses are an excellent tool to assist you with both learning what the needs of your children are through the separation process and also assisting you to identify the issues and stay child focused through the dispute process.  It is therefore beneficial for all separated parties to attend this free Course (run locally thorough Barnardos) at any time following separation and particularly prior to mediation or court proceedings  .

Where there are safety issues or urgency, we can  act on your behalf and assist you to apply to the Family Court for Orders in respect of parenting or guardianship (and protection) matters without first attending mediation.  For more information about this process or to arrange an appointment please telephone either Stacey, Margot or Lee at the Nelson office.

  • (financial criteria)

[1] Funding eligibility calculator available at

November 2015

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