All mothers and most fathers are automatically guardians of their child at birth. If a couple splits up, they stay guardians of their children and should make guardianship decisions together if possible to guide their child's upbringing and development.
Other adults can be made a child’s guardian by the Family Court. This could be a grandparent or a parent’s new partner.
A child can have more than 1 guardian.
A child’s parents are also known as natural guardians.
Other people can apply to the Family Court to be a child’s guardian. This includes a grandparent or other relative, or a parent’s new partner.
The Family Court can also appoint a guardian without an application being made. This can happen if:
A parent can name a person in their will (or another formal legal document) to be a testamentary guardian if the parent dies. A testamentary guardian's role is similar to other guardians of the child except they don’t have the right to day-to-day care of the child.
The High Court or Family Court can sometimes appoint itself as a child’s legal guardian. The court usually appoints The Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki to be the guardian as an agent of the court. The people who can ask the court to do this are:
You might find it useful to talk to a lawyer about guardianship. If you can’t afford a lawyer:
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