This regulatory area governs family law in Aotearoa New Zealand. It provides the framework for adult relationships (including relationship property), parent-child relationships, and for resolving disputes when relationships end.

This area includes the following systems:

Adult relationships

The adult relationships system is primarily about the regulation of people’s personal relationships, for example marriage or civil union, and ownership of property. One of the system’s objectives is to ensure fairness in the division of property as this is often the focus following the end of a relationship or the death of one party. It also protects the interests of vulnerable adults who are unable to fully manage their own care and property matters.

The remedies provided in this system are for the distribution or control of property and assets under direction of the courts.

Further information about adult relationships

Parent-child relationships

The parent-child regulatory system defines and regulates relationships between children and their parents or guardians. This system:

  • confirms the status of children and parents (regardless of the parents’ relationship or the manner of conception)
  • defines and regulates the powers, rights and responsibilities of parents and/or guardians
  • promotes the best interests and welfare of the child, and ensures that appropriate arrangements are in place for their care
  • implements, under New Zealand law, the Hague Conventions relating to inter-country adoptions and international child abduction
  • regulates the process for domestic and inter-country adoptions
  • provides a process through which adopted people and birth parents can obtain, or restrict, access to certain information.

In 2018, the Minister of Justice appointed an Independent Panel to review the 2014 reforms to the family justice system. In mid-2020 Parliament agreed legislative amendments and new resourcing as part of the first phase of work responding to the panel’s report. 

Changes seek to ensure that families and whānau are well-supported with early legal advice and information, children’s participation is enhanced, and lawyers’ duties are expanded in care of children proceedings. They also aim to reduce delay in resolving disputes in the Family Court, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Information about the independent panel’s review of reforms to the family justice system can be found at:

Family Court rewrite

Work is ongoing to respond to the independent panel’s remaining recommendations relating to the 2014 reforms to the family justice system.

Further information about parent-child relationships