Frequently asked questions
We often receive questions from grandparents who are raising their grandchildren about parenting orders and where they can get help.
While raising their grandchildren can bring a lot of happiness, it normally comes about because of a family breakdown. There might have been a death or relationship split or problems with drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence. For some grandparents, it brings enormous financial pressures. For others, they struggle with trying to understand and cope with grandchildren who seem to be out of control or have special needs.
We have put together a list of responses to their FAQs to try and assist. Click on our online FAQ brochure on this page or read more below.
FDR mediation to work out parenting disputes
Most people need to try Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) mediation before going to the Family Court for a parenting order
FDR is often an effective way of resolving parenting disputes. The Family Court website says: “it’s cheaper, less stressful and quicker than going to court”. You usually can’t apply for a parenting order unless you’ve already attempted to resolve the dispute through the FDR process.
Grandparents can access FDR mediation when the care and welfare of their grandchildren is involved, and there is a family dispute that would require an application for a parenting order or directions from the court about a dispute between the children’s guardians. To get more advice about this, contact one of our staff at the FDR Centre on 0508 337 23687.
What is a parenting order?
A parenting order is intended to settle a dispute about who looks after the children and when they have them (day-to-day care) or when parents and other people can see them (contact). Day-to-day care used to be called “custody” and contact used to be called “access”.
Can I get a parenting order?
Yes. Although grandparents don’t have an automatic right to apply for a parenting order, you can get one. You will usually need the court’s permission (called leave of the court) to apply, but there are times when you won’t need leave (such as if your son or daughter – being the grandchild’s mum or dad – has died or has been refused contact with the child by the court or is making no attempt to have contact with their child).
How do I go about getting a parenting order?
You apply to the Family Court for a parenting order. The Family Court has a lot of information and advice, plus online forms available to start the application process. A link is provided here – Applying for a parenting order.
Applying for a parenting order
The Citizens Advice Bureau can provide you with assistance to find a family court lawyer if you want to talk with a lawyer or get their help – www.cab.org.nz
Community Law Centre is all around the country, from Kaitāia to Rēkohu (the Chathams). They offer all sorts of free legal help, from easy-to-read information, to community workshops, to one-on-one legal help – Community Law Centre
Can a parenting order be enforced?
Yes. If you have day-to-day care of your grandchild, you can apply to the court for a warrant to have the child delivered to you. The court will look at what is in the best interests of the child before issuing the warrant. A police officer or social worker will collect the child and deliver them to you.
If a person doesn’t follow the terms of a parenting order or stops the parenting order being followed, they face being taken before the court and warned, or a fine of $2,500, or up to three month’s imprisonment. The court can also order that a person who breaches a parenting order pay a bond. If that person breaches the order, the bond (or part of it) can be forfeited.
Is there financial assistance available for my grandchildren?
Yes. You need to go to WINZ to get this. It includes:
- Unsupported Child’s Benefit or Orphan’s Benefit. This is between just over $200 to $265 per week per child (depending on their age). It is non-taxable. It is paid where there is a family breakdown and the grandparent will be looking after the child for the next 12 months or more.
- Weekly clothing allowance
- School & Year Start-Up payment
- Extraordinary Care Fund of up to $2000 per child per year. This is not asset tested.
- If your grandchild has special needs, you can get a letter from your doctor confirming this and apply for a disability allowance to assist with them.
What if I work and need to take time off to get life sorted out when my grandchild moves in?
Paid parental leave is available to a grandparent where they become the permanent primary caregiver of a child under 6 years old. Talk to an employment lawyer, the Citizens Advice Bureau or one of the organisations listed below to get advice on whether you qualify and how to make it happen.
Where to get advice and support
Are there any organisations that will provide me with assistance to work through things?
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (www.grg.org.nz). The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust New Zealand is a charitable trust which provides information, advice, support and advocacy for full-time grandparent caregivers. It provides help with parenting, guardianship, Family Court matters, dealing with Oranga Tamariki, children with special needs, schooling, education, mental health, youth justice and housing. Its membership and services are free. It helps grandparents access the financial assistance their grandchildren are entitled to and runs workshops to help grandparents develop skills and learn to cope with the issues they face when raising their grandchildren.
Caring Families Aotearoa – www.caringfamilies.org.nz provides training programmes, advice and support for people who find themselves caring for others.
Oranga Tamariki – www.orangatamariki.govt.nz/caregiving/support-and-learning – offers free training courses and support for caregivers.
Permanent Caregivers Support Services – www.pcss.org.nz