Resolving parenting disagreements

OVERVIEW Here you'll find out how to settle parenting disagreements without going to court. If you and your ex-partner have followed this process and still can't come to an agreement, you can ask the Family Court for help. Although we mainly use the words "parents", we recognise that often other people are involved in caring for children too, including guardians, grandparents, and wider family and whānau.

IF IT'S URGENT - If you're experiencing family violence or you believe your children are at risk, you can apply to the court for an urgent (without notice) decision. The court can make an Interim Order while you sort out longer-term arrangements. If you think you need urgent help, it's best to see a lawyer about making an urgent application for you. Find out more about getting urgent help

It isn't always easy to come to a parenting agreement during or after a relationship break up. You can get help from specialist services to settle your disagreements without going to court.

If you still can’t agree after trying these services, you can ask the Family Court to make a decision for you.

In this section:

Parenting Through Separation

Most people need to do a Parenting Through Separation course before they can ask the Family Court to decide a parenting matter. This free 4-hour course is a good first step for anyone involved with child care who's going through a family break up. It includes tips for talking with your children and your ex-partner and how to manage shared care. You and your ex-partner attend the course separately. 

Family Dispute Resolution mediation

Family Dispute Resolution is an effective way of sorting out a parenting dispute. It’s cheaper, less stressful and quicker than going to court. It also means you still make the decisions about your children. 

Family Dispute Resolution is free if you’re on a low income. 

Going to Family Court after mediation

If you've tried to reach agreement out of court but still can't agree, the Family Court can decide about the care of your children. If you want to apply to the Family Court, you usually need to have completed a Parenting Through Separation course within the last two years and Family Dispute Resolution mediation within the last year.

The court can only make a Court Order if:

  • the Order is for the welfare and best interests of the children involved
  • the court takes the children's views into account.

Find out more about how the Family Court settles disagreements including legal help and costs.

If you want to ask the Family Court for a Court Order regarding the care of your children, usually the court will require you to have first completed the Parenting Through Separation course and tried Family Dispute Resolution.

Care of Children: Applying for a Court Order [PDF, 3.9 MB]