Family Law


Header Family Law

Family Law deals with a wide range of family relationships and issues which can often involve very stressful and emotional circumstances.

Our Family Law specialists can help put your mind at ease, bringing their extensive experience in areas such as:


  • Protecting your property through a prenuptial/contracting out agreement
  • Relationship/matrimonial property division


  • Adoption
  • Custody/parenting arrangements for children
  • Child support
  • Guardianship issues
  • Orders preventing removal of a child
  • Paternity

Other Matters

  • Dissolution/divorce
  • Domestic violence

Sarah Bush and Paul Maskell lead our Family Law team, a group of lawyers who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area of law. If a resolution cannot be negotiated by agreement, then we can advise you with the issuing of court proceedings. All our family lawyers have extensive court experience.

Prenuptial/Contracting out Agreements

Couples can contract out of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 either entirely, or in part, and reach their own agreement on how their property will be divided in the event of a separation. While such agreements are usually completed at the beginning of a relationship, they can be entered into at any time during the relationship. They are useful where there are assets to protect by one or both parties. There are strict legislative requirements that must be complied with to ensure these agreements are legally binding and enforceable. We can draft the agreement for you, or provide you with advice if you are given an agreement to sign.

Relationship Property/Matrimonial Property

Upon a separation or death, the division of relationship property is governed by the Property (Relationships) Act 1976. This Act applies to married couples, de facto couples and those in a civil union.

We can advise you on your entitlement under the legislation and negotiate resolution of the division of property. If you can reach agreement on the division of your property then you can enter into a Separation Agreement, which we can draft for you. For an agreement to be legally binding and enforceable it must comply with the requirements of the legislation.

If it is not possible to reach agreement on the division of property, then an application can be made to the Family Court asking the Court to divide your property. We can draft the Court applications and represent you throughout the process. If necessary, we can also prepare urgent Court applications to stop property being sold or disposed of. If you are served with Court applications, we can assist you in defending the proceedings.


Adoption occurs when parents transfer their legal rights and responsibility for a child to adoptive parents. Sometimes, rather than applying for an adoption, orders are made under the Care of Children Act 2004 granting the would-be adoptive parents with day-to-day care and guardianship rights, without legally changing the child’s parentage.

We can provide advice to help you decide which is the best option for your particular situation, draft the necessary Court applications and represent you in Court.

Custody/Parenting Arrangements for Children

Sometimes parents who do not live together cannot agree on care arrangements for their children. Alternatively, you may be a grandparent, or other family member who has concerns about the care arrangements for children in your family.

These matters can sometimes be resolved by negotiation through solicitors or Family Dispute Resolution (FDR). At other times, Court proceedings are necessary.

We can help you, whether it be for an initial appointment to simply advise as to the provisions of the law, or to negotiate care arrangements, or if necessary to issue, or defend, Court proceedings on your behalf.

Child Support

Child support is paid by a parent who does not live with their children, or shares the care of the children with the other parent. It takes into account any care that the paying parent has of their children. Child support can be paid through the IRD pursuant to a formula assessment or by agreement, or informally between parents.

Where a formula assessment has been made, it is possible to apply for a review of your child support obligations. We can help you with this process and provide you with advice as to your child support obligations.


Guardianship is the right to have a say in the major decisions affecting your child's upbringing, even if you are separated and your child lives with the other parent.Examples of guardianship issues include:

  1. Your child's name, and any changes to it
  2. Changes to your child's place of residence
  3. Major medical treatment for your child
  4. Where and how your child is educated
  5. Your child's culture, language or religious denomination and practice

When disputes arise between guardians with respect to these decisions, proceedings can be issued in the Family Court to resolve the matter. Alternatively, it may be possible to reach agreement with the assistance of lawyers without the need to issue proceedings. We have considerable experience in negotiating resolution of these disputes as well as issuing or defending Court proceedings, if necessary.

We can also provide advice on applying to be added as an additional guardian of a child.

Orders Preventing Removal of a Child

Generally, one parent is not allowed to remove a child from the city in which they live, or New Zealand, without the consent of the other parent if they are both guardians. If you have concerns that your child may be removed without your consent, then it is possible to make an urgent Court application for an order preventing the child from being removed. We can provide advice on your options and draft the necessary Court application.


Paternity means establishing who is the father of a child. It is possible to make an application to the Family Court to either declare a man as the father of a child or to declare that a man is not the father of a child. We can make or defend any paternity application.

Dissolution of a Marriage/Divorce

A dissolution of marriage (divorce) can be obtained once a married or civil union couple have been separated for two years. Aside from simply obtaining the dissolution, couples also need to consider arrangements for the care of their children as well as the division of their relationship property. We can provide you with advice on the process.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence includes physical, sexual or psychological abuse. Where there is domestic violence, it may be possible to apply for a protection order which prevents the other party (the Respondent) from using domestic violence against the person who applied for the order (the Applicant) or a child of the Applicant. If the application is urgent, the Family Court may grant the order without the Respondent first being told that the order has been made. If the protection order is made on an urgent basis, then the Respondent will be served with the order once it is made.

If you are the victim of domestic violence we can discuss your options with you and make Court applications on your behalf if necessary.

If you have been served with either a protection order, or an application for a protection order, we can represent you in Court to defend the application.