If someone doesn't follow a Court Order relating to children

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People must do what a Court Order says. It’s a serious matter if you don’t follow a Court Order.

If someone is not following an Order you can ask the Family Court to take action. Generally, the court will only do this after you’ve tried to work things out with the other person.

Work it out yourselves

If you can do this safely, the first step is to talk with the person who is not following the Court Order. There may be a good reason why they’re having problems following the order.

To help you both work things out it may be helpful to go to:

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If you can’t agree – apply to the Family Court

If you can’t agree, or it’s not safe for you to try, you can apply to the Family Court to enforce the Court Order.

Apply to have an Order enforced

If you need help to fill in the forms you can call us or visit your local court

Find out more about affidavits and statutory declarations

  1. Fill in the form in the form generator (external link)
    Choose the Order that has been breached and then ‘Enforcement for a breach’.
    If you want the Police, a social worker or someone else to pick the children up from the other person, you can add ‘Issue a warrant’ to the same form. The court won't issue a warrant to pick up a child who is 16 or older unless the case is exceptional.
  2. File your application. You need to do this yourself. You can’t get a lawyer to file an application to enforce an Order unless it’s urgent.
    Find out more about how to file documents

Apply for urgent help

You can apply for urgent help if there’s a risk to your personal safety or any of your children’s personal safety, or there’s a risk of serious injury, undue hardship, or your child being taken out of New Zealand without your permission.

If a decision needs to be made urgently (without notice), the court can make an Interim Order before the other person gets to have their say.

If you think you need urgent help, you may want to see a lawyer about making an urgent application for you. If you can’t afford a lawyer you may be able to get:

Find out more about urgent help

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What the Family Court can do

If the court is satisfied that someone is not doing what an Order says, it can do any of the following things:

  • admonish them (give them a warning) – this is when the person is reprimanded in court
  • change the Order – the court can change or cancel the Parenting Order (for example, it could reduce the amount of time the person has caring for the child)
  • bonds – the court can tell the person to pay money to the court as a bond, which they could lose if they continue to disobey the Order
  • compensation – if you have to spend money because of the breach (such as pay for travel ), the court can order the person who breached the Order to pay you some money
  • enforce care or contact – if the other person is preventing you from having day-to-day care or contact with the children as outlined in the Parenting Order, the court can order the Police or a social worker to pick up the children and deliver them to you
  • press criminal charges – if the person still doesn’t follow the Order, then they may get charged with a crime and could be fined or jailed.

The court can also issue a warrant for the Police, social worker or someone else to pick the children up if:

  • a person is seeing or caring for your children when a Parenting Order says they can’t
  • a person breaches a Supervised Contact Order (where the person is only allowed to see the children while they are being supervised by someone else).

If a person tries to stop the children being returned, a police officer, social worker or someone else named in the warrant is allowed to use reasonable force if necessary to enter a property and pick up the children.

It's a criminal offence for anyone to stop or try to stop someone with a warrant picking up children. It's also a criminal offence not to let them in right away when they come to the door. If convicted of this offence, a person can be jailed for up to 3 months or fined up to $2500.

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