Family Lawyers

Family & Divorce LawyersOur West Auckland based family lawyers are New Zealand family law specialists. We help families and individuals in New Zealand and those based overseas with New Zealand family law issues. As a family law law firm we will give you practical legal advice on divorce law, separation, child custody (day to day care of children), child relocation, adoption, relationship property, child support, family protection and domestic violence, family court or family dispute resolution.

Our team of family law solicitors is led by Ellen Harbidge, who is also on the Auckland District Law Society Family Law Committee. Our family law team’s extensive experience negotiating out of court settlements along with appearing regularly in the Family Court can help you achieve the best outcome for your situation.

Approachable and friendly, as your family lawyer we will sensitively guide you through the process, providing an objective perspective, whilst being a strong advocate for your rights and entitlements. Family law can be stressful and complex, where we differ from other family lawyers is in our ability to listen compassionately to understand your unique situation and then explain the law and your options in a way that you can understand – giving real advice and the power to make informed decisions and get on with your life.

As part of a full service firm we can advise on and finalise all aspects of the process, including, relationship property settlement, property transfers, settling trusts and establishing new ones, estate planning, drafting new wills and enduring powers of attorney.

Whatever your family law matter is, from contracting out agreements to finalizing parenting arrangements and dividing relationship property our family law experts are here to help you today.

We can assist you with:

*Please note, we do not provide legal aid services.  Please click here to view a list of local family lawyers who do provide legal aid services.


Relationship Property Lawyers

Our Auckland Relationship Property Lawyers are New Zealand Relationship Property Law Experts – whether you are looking to protect your assets with a family trust or contracting out agreement (pre-nup / pre-nuptial agreement) or need advice on your rights when separating relationship property when a relationship ends, we have the experience to help ensure your rights, entitlements and assets are protected.

If you are separating from a relationship partner (click to learn more about how we can help you with separation).

Contracting Out Agreements allow you to “contract out” of the requirements of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 which determine how relationship property is divided in the event of separation or death. The key to a successful Contracting Out Agreement (including the ability for it to stand up to potential litigation in the future) is for both parties to receive the right advice from the beginning.

Our relationship property lawyers can help you today with:

• Assistance introducing the idea of a contracting out agreement to your partner
• Drafting contracting out agreements
• Negotiating the terms of the contracting out agreement
• Explaining your rights and entitlements
• Providing independent advice on a contracting out agreement when a different law firm has drafted the agreement


Divorce Lawyers

As specialist divorce lawyers, we will compassionately help you navigate a distressing and stressful time whilst ensuring your best interest are protected.

While you need to be separated from your spouse for two years before you can legally divorce in New Zealand, there are steps you can take as soon as you separate (or are contemplating separation) to protect your assets and interests, and manage child care for children (see our separation law services)

If you have met the legal separation requirements for divorce and have completed the legal division of your relationship property, then we can help you decide whether to apply for dissolution of marriage as an individual or jointly with your spouse, and make the necessary application to the Family Court.

It is important to note the divorce proceedings and competing dissolution of marriage does not fully resolve your relationship property.  It is important that this is completed before or at the time you legally divorce.


Separation Lawyers

The end of a relationship can be difficult and stressful, but seeking expert from our skilled separation lawyer quickly can help ensure your interests and rights are protected.

You need to be separated for two years to divorce in New Zealand, but there are some legal steps (link to article – advice on separation) you should take as soon as possible to protect your assets after you separate. Some of these can even be done when you are contemplating separation.  You do not have to wait for two years to finalise these separation details – in fact waiting can be detrimental to your interests.

Separating Relationship Property
Whether you are ending a marriage, civil union or a defacto relationship, it is extremely important for you to meet all the legal requirements to finalise separation of your relationship property as soon as possible.  Otherwise your ex-partner may be able to make claims on future earnings and assets you acquire in the future, or make a claim against your estate should you pass away. 

You will need a formal end of relationship agreement, sometimes known as a Separation Agreement or Relationship Property Agreement.

As divorce and separation experts, we can assist you with simple divisions of property through to complex relationship property divisions involving family trusts, family businesses, family farms and/or existing Contracting Out Agreements.  As skilled negotiators who are experts in family law (and the Court’s interpretation of family laws) we will help you achieve the best possible outcome so that you can go on with your life.

As part of a full service firm we can advise you on and finalise all aspects of the process, including completing the conveyancing to sell or transfer property (and  if you purchase new property), winding up family trusts and establishing new family trusts, drafting new a new will and new enduring powers or attorney.

Our separation lawyers can help you with:

  • Severing joint tenancies
  • Determining separation dates
  • Formalising division of property
  • Negotiating division of relationship property
  • Drafting end of relationship agreements (Separation Agreements/Relationship Property Agreements)
  • Negotiating spousal maintenance, ecconomic disparity or occupational rent (where applicable)
  • Notices of claim
  • Resettling Family Trusts
  • Updating your will

Child Care Arrangements/Day to Day Care/Child Custody
If there are children from your relationship we can also assist you with negotiating and formalising the day to day care (child custody), visitation and guardianship arrangements of your children.  (See our Child Custody Law and Guardianship Law services)


Child Custody Lawyers

Our Child Custody Lawyers can help you with all matters regarding the day to day care of children in New Zealand.  Every day we help families negotiate and formalise Day to Day care (child custody) arrangements, contact/access and visitation, guardianship issues, paternity, child relocation and adoption.

Our team of Child Custody Lawyers can help you negotiate parenting and care arrangements when you first separate from your child’s other parent or at any point while your child (or a child you care for) is under 18.  We can also assist where CYFs have become involved.

Deciding on the best care arrangements for children can be stressful and emotional. Our family lawyers are skilled at guiding all parties to focus on what is best for the child(ren) involved.  We will ensure that you understand your rights and obligations and how the law in New Zealand affects your situation.

We can help you negotiate out of Court settlements, prepare for Family Dispute Resolution or litigate your case in the Family Court.

We represent fathers, mothers, grandparents, step parents, same-sex parents, adoptive parents, existing guardians and those who wish to be guardians. 

(please note we do not provide Legal Aid services)

Our Child Custody Lawyers can advise you on: 

Guardianship Lawyers

Our guardianship lawyers are skilled in all matters relating to Guardianship in New Zealand under the Care of Children Act. 

Guardianship Disputes
Family break ups can be complicated, and even after day to day care/child custody arrangements have been sorted, sometimes there can be ongoing issues regarding decisions affecting the child(ren) – where they will spend holidays, what school they will attend etc.  These decisions are called guardianship decisions, and when a dispute cannot be resolved, those disputes are known as guardianship disputes.

Our family lawyers are skilled at settling disagreements and helping resolve disputes without having to head to Court.  Where guardians can not agree, we can assist you to prepare for Family Dispute Resolution mediation.  It is important that you understand your parental and guardianship rights before entering into Family Dispute Resolution, to ensure that you achieve the best outcome.

If you are unable to reach agreement at Family Dispute Resolution then we can assist you to prepare for legal proceedings in the Family Court. (learn more about our Family Court services)

Guardianship Applications
We can also assist people (such as step-parents or grandparents) to make applications to be appointed as legal guardians (whether permanently or on an interim basis)

Our Guardianship Law specialists can help you with: 

  • Guardianship disputes
  • Negotiating guardianship disputes
  • Helping you prepare to take a Guardianship dispute to Family Dispute Resolution
  • Litigating a Guardianship Dispute in the Family Court
  • Grandparents as guardians
  • Applications for Step Parents to be appointed guardians
  • Testamentary Guardians?
  • Court Appointed guardians?
  • Applications to have someone removed as guardian
  • Defence of application to be removed as guardian
  • Guardianship Orders


Adoption Lawyers

Our Adoption Lawyers are experts in New Zealand Adoption Law.  We can assist with adoptions within New Zealand. (We cannot assist with international adoptions)

 Adoption is when one or more biological parents give up there parental rights for a child under the age of 18 and someone else becomes their legal parent.  There are several types of adoption in New Zealand – children can be adopted by extended family members, step parents, same-sex parents or strangers.

We also regularly help same sex (Gay / Lesbian) couples with adoption.  We can assist same sex couples with joint adoption, or when one partner is the biological parent and the non-biological parent wishes to be the child’s legal parent.

Adults wishing to adopt in New Zealand must be approved as adoptive parents by Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children. For international adoptions, where the child is born overseas but will be resident in New Zealand, adoptive parents must be approved by the New Zealand Central Authority for Adoption (“NZCA”), which is a department of Oranga Tamariki.

Our adoption lawyers can assist you with: 

  • Adoptions by extended family
  • Adoptions by same-sex couples
  • Adoptions within New Zealand


Family Court Lawyers

Our Family Court Lawyers are skilled advocates who regularly appear in the Family Court when family disputes over children, relationship property or domestic violence can’t be resolved through negotiation or mediation.

Family Court can be stressful and confusing; our family court lawyers will compassionately guide you through the process. We’ll take the time to make sure we fully understand you and your family’s situation.  Then we’ll help you understand the law relating to your case, outline what your options are, the costs involved and the likely outcomes – all in language you can understand.  We will diligently prepare your case to help achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family, and keep you informed throughout the process.

Our Family Court Lawyers can help you with:

  • Contact/Access with Children
  • Care of Children/Child Custody
  • Relationship Property
  • Child Support
  • CYFs proceedings
  • Paternity
  • Adoption
  • Divorce


Family & Domestic Violence Lawyers

Our Domestic Violence Lawyers can assist you if you or your children have been the victim of domestic violence or domestic abuse, or if you have been accused of committing domestic violence.  Our family law team are skilled in domestic violence law and can help guide you through this sensitive matter with practical legal advice and support.

Applying for a protection order
If you or a child you care for has experienced domestic violence, we can help you apply for a protection order – providing advice on your situation and options, preparing and filing the documents and application to the Court, representing you in Court.

If you need a Protection Order, we may be able to make an application to the Court for a temporary protection order “Without Notice” within a day.  Our application would need to prove that a delay could cause a real risk of harm or undue hardship to you or your child for this to be granted.

The alternative is an On Notice application for a Protection Order which allows the person you are accusing to defend that application before the Court decides whether or not to grant a permanent Protection Order.

Defending a protection order
If you have been served with a protection order you need to seek expert legal advice straight away.  The ways that you respond to a protection order both through legal means and in your day to day actions will have an outcome on any defence.  As domestic violence law experts we can advise you on your rights, the options available to you and help you to choose the right course of action to defend the allegations made against you. 

A final protection order can result in the loss of access to children and/or criminal charges being made against you. It can also remain on your criminal record hindering life opportunities.

We can also assist you where an accusation of domestic violence is impacting on your guardianship/parenting.