Non-custodial parents have rights too: we overview the key issues – the emotions, the legal and physical practicalities to work through.

Not getting to see your child on a day-to-day basis can be very hard to bear. There is often a tangle of emotions to deal with, plus legal and physical practicalities to work through.

No two situations will be exactly the same, but this article will help you address some of the most common issues.

Parental rights for non-custodial parents

Visitation and Access

No matter what anybody says, children should have the opportunity to spend quality time with both their parents.

Depending on the relationship you have with your ex-partner, this may be an informal flexible arrangement, or one with more structure and legal guidelines in place. Whatever the agreement, spending time with your child is an important part of maintaining a healthy, nurturing relationship.

If your ex-partner is refusing you visitation, making visitation difficult, or you are having difficulties agreeing on what is fair, you can access free counselling services through the Family Court.

These sessions are not designed to rescue your relationship, but more as a mediation process in sorting out details of your visitation and access. Family Court counselling is not means or income tested, and anybody having problems in their relationship can apply. Simply visit your local Family Court, or download a ‘Request for Counselling Form’ from their website www.justice.govt.nz/family .

If you are unable to visit regularly because you are living in another country, in prison, or other practicalities, then keep regular contact through phone calls, letters, emails and videos.

Installing a webcam or getting video calling on your cell phone means you could have face-to-face conversations with your child even if you’re miles away. The benefits of maintaining a positive connection with your child far outweigh the financial cost involved.

Child Support

Under New Zealand law, custodial parents have the legal right to request Child Support payments from you, and depending on their circumstances, this may be done in a number of different ways.

If your ex-partner is not on a benefit, you can come to a private arrangement as to what you think is fair. Provided you both agree, this does not have to be the amount stipulated by Inland Revenue, and can be paid out in whatever way you choose.

Some people choose to make a lump sum payment at the beginning of the year and avoid ongoing payments, while others choose to make weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments which are reviewed regularly.

Whatever your agreement, it is important to make sure it is in writing, with both parties signatures. Agreements about any extra things you are prepared to pay for should also be included in the document.

If your ex-partner is on a benefit and you have been named as the other parent, then your Child Support payments will automatically be deducted from your wages or salary through Inland Revenue. If you are self employed, your child support payments need to be made to Inland Revenue at the end of the financial year. Your ex-partner will not get your payments directly, rather it is used to offset their benefit payments.

Sometimes non-custodial parents feel frustrated that their child support payments go to the child’s parent rather than the child, particularly if they have concerns about how their ex-partner is raising their child or where they see the money going.

While child support payments are made to support the child, the custodial parent can decide how that money is best spent. The payments do not have to be used on specific child-related costs like clothes and school fees. Basic living expenses like rent, power, food, and petrol are all necessary as well.

If you think your ex-partner is neglecting your child by spending excess money on drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other destructive behaviour, then you should talk to your family lawyer. While you will still be required to pay child support as long as they have custody of your child, there may be reason to question that custody.

To find a family lawyer in your area visit www.familylaw.org.nz and search using your chosen criteria.

If you are not working or are on a low income, you may be eligible for legal aid which will help towards a large portion of your legal costs. To find out more about legal aid, talk to your lawyer’s secretary or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for free information.

Relationship with Your Ex-Partner (Your child’s other parent)

It’s no secret that if you maintain a good relationship with your ex-partner, then everything else gets easier. Sometimes this is easier said than done! Let’s face it, if you could manage to stay friends, you’d probably still be together.

There are several community organisations around that can help you deal with issues surrounding your relationship, and if it’s affecting your child, then there are ways you can get this support for free.

Your first step is to contact your local Family Court, or download a ‘Request for Counselling Form’ from their website www.justice.govt.nz/family. These sessions are not designed to rescue your relationship, but rather get you to a place where you and your ex-partner can communicate effectively.

Now that you know more about the parental rights for non-custodial parents, you should read our Parenting with your ex partner article.

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Sandi Paterson is a freelance journalist based in Tauranga. She lives in a 1950's bach with her daughter, a grumpy cat, and a budgie who sits on her computer when she writes. This article appeared originally in Little Treasures magazine.

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Tiffany

If the father of my child moves away for work and doesn’t see his child for months at a time, what rights do I have over my child? I want full custody but I dunno if I can get that

Tiffany

Hi, the father of my child moves away from work and doesn’t bother coming down to see her for months, I wanna get full custody of her cause of this since she hardly even knows him, can I do that?

KF

Hi Tiffany, you can certainly apply for a Parenting Order to take over full time day-to-day care of your child, if that’s what you’re asking. If you’re asking can you remove the Father as a legal guardian of your child, the answer is no (if the care of the child is at risk, there are orders you can apply for to minimise that risk). It is seldom in the best interests of the child to have either guardian removed from their lives completely. And the Court will always make the child’s rights and interests the main priority in it’s decisions.… Read more »

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Sunshine

Hi, recently me and my partner have decided that we want to move an hour and a half away from where we currently live due to financial strains. I am wondering if I need to inform the biological father of my two girls?
I have the final parenting order with day to day care and also have a protection order against him, he is only allowed supervised access to the girls but has shown no interest in seeing them, it has been just over two years since they last saw him.

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NZ Mum

My hubby is having trouble getting access to his son due to disagreement around pick up time and travel.

Is it expected that pick up drop offs either be in the middle or they share responsibility of full distance?

KF

Hi Nesha, if the distance is an issue (which it sounds like it could be), it’s the sort of thing that would be fairer to share. You need to get this agreed to, however, and in writing to make it effective. If time and travel distance is really impacting your husband’s access, it does need to be sorted. If the parties can’t agree to a fair outcome, it may need to go to mediation to be formalised in a Parenting Order. — Jarrod

Step-Mom

In the event of separation, should the father be forced to take the child on EVERY day without work or is he also entitled to rest days/time off for himself?

Debi

What are the mother’s rights to leave the country if the father is incarcerated?

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Kiri West

Hi I am a mother of one. My son is four years old. He currently lives with his father who has full-custody (day-to-day care) I am wanting more time with my son. What are my rights?

KF

Hi Kiri, your rights are really clear in this situation. You have the right to work out a Parenting Plan that provides the best possible care arrangement for your child. If the parties can’t agree to a suitable plan, then you have the right to apply to the Courts to go through mediation and have a Parenting Order put in place. Just remember, it’s always what’s best for the child that should determine the care arrangements. You can go ahead and negotiate a Parenting Plan with your child’s father right now. Just make sure everyone agrees to the plan, and… Read more »

Royden

can anyone help with some advice? my ex has a parenting order with her having day to day care and I have them for 3 consecutive weekends out of four. and half the school holidays.with any additional or alternative contact to be written down and signed. now I have a letter saying she has signed them into my full time care since 24 Dec 2017. after 7 months of children in my care the ex decides she wants the children back into her care.

KF

Hi Royden, it sounds as if the original Parenting Order is well out of date for your current circumstances. In the first instance, you should both try and get together to resolve the issues, and document your agreement on the new care arrangement. If either of you can’t come to agreement, you may need to go back into mediation, and have a new Parenting Order drawn up. — Jarrod

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Tony

Hi I want to know what I can do?, i have a 16 month old who is currently living with my ex, I have him 3 hours every day plus weekends when I can, the issue is my ex has a daughter who just turned 19 and has been wanting to take my son out of town to a different city, from day 1 I have said no and so has my ex. Yesterday without my knowledge she took him out of the city, my ex has disregarded my decision and allowed this to happen I’m fuming over this I… Read more »

KF

Hi Tony, you’d need to document your concerns with the situation, and then have those concerns formally included in a Parenting Order to enforce this. If the older daughter is travelling with your child at the request of, or with the approval of, the child’s mother then you would need strong justification for this. You should seek independent legal advice immediately if you have concerns here. — Jarrod

Rovi Varma

Hi I have full custody of my son. His mother moved to Australia 4 years ago leaving him with me. She has a history of issues. She has hardly kept in touch with him. Now all of a sudden she wants me to send him to Australia 4 times a year. My 10 year old refuses to go. She is now threatening on applying from Australia into NZ family court to alter her visiting arrangements for my son to be sent there 4 times a year. Can a court grant an order sending him for visits to Australia when I… Read more »

Rovi Varma

Hi I have full custody of my son. His mother moved to Australia 4 years ago leaving him with me. She has a history of issues. She has hardly kept in touch with him. Now all of a sudden she wants me to send him to Australia 4 times a year. My 10 year old refuses to go. She is now threatening on applying from Australia into NZ family court to alter her visiting arrangements for my son to be sent there 4 times a year. Can a court grant an order sending him for visits to Australia when I… Read more »

David

hope some get some good out of it, from my experience basically the entire system props up the mother-child relationship, no recognition of biological bias against men, basically your a pay cheque until their 18 and the mother controls how often you see your child. To boot they can lie about you, get a protection order and get you arrested. Truth is not more important than the pay cheque or the #metoo #timesup movement, even if the mother is the abuser. My advice is if you dont have a good relationship with the mother and you dont have ALOT of… Read more »

KF

Thanks for your comment David. It’s certainly a bleak assessment of the ‘system’! I’m guessing you’ve had a poor outcome personally? My only question to you would be, regardless of the outcome you’ve experienced for either Mum or Dad, in your view were the rights of your child looked after by the system? — Jarrod

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Vanessa vikki

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Lisa Crook

Hi my child was recently taken by a paternal nana who applied for a without notice parenting order. First she withdrew it then it made its way to a judge 6 weeks later. She put in an application for leave to apply stating my child was living with her but this is not true. She also provided false information and failed to mention her son my childs father or the fact I had a current custody order or protection order against. I’m still reeling from how this could have been approved and have to wait 28 days to go to… Read more »

KF

Hi Lisa, you can check out the Justice website on issues with Protection Orders and access: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/domestic-violence/legal-protection-you-can-get/ Beyond this it sounds like a really complex situation that we don’t have the expertise to provide advice on. I can only suggest that you seek out legal advice from a Family Law expert as soon as possible: http://www.familylaw.org.nz/public/find-a-lawyer — Jarrod.

Marion Matthews

Hi my son has been living with his gf since 2016 and I’ve been paying child support too the father,as well as trying to help and provide for my son while living with his gf family.. Anyway I didn’t know I didn’t have to pay child support while my son was living with his gf can I recover the funds I paid the dad too give too his gf family for taking care of him..

KF

Hi Marion, your best bet will be to contact IRD directly. My initial thought is that the father’s circumstances have changed, and they haven’t notified IRD, which you cannot do. You’ll no doubt need to get some evidence together for IRD. But give them a call, and they should know exactly what your rights are here: http://www.ird.govt.nz/childsupport/payments/receiving/receiving-payments.html#04 — Jarrod

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Nina

Hi, my sister and her partner no longer have their children due to CYFS. she is finding it very difficult to see her two children as the people who the kids are with wont allow it and CYFS aint helping either she has won her court hearing and still no visiting rights and has decide to stop pursuing her case.
As an aunty im wanting to know how can i get visitation to see my niece and nephews as we have also been stop from having contact with them aswell?!

KF

Hi Nina, it’s important for children to have access to their extended family. However, you’ll probably need to pursue access rights through the courts. You should definitely seek out advice from a family law expert to find out what your rights are, and what options you may have. — Jarrod

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Stacey Thomas

I need help, I haven’t been able
To see my four year old son for over a year now because my ex wouldn’t allow me to see him and had cut off all contact I had to get a hold of her.. and now that I’ve managed to get mediation on board my ex is saying my son doesn’t want to see me and he doesn’t want a thing to do with me. He’s only four and I’m a little confused as what to do now? Can someone please give me some advice

KF

Hi Stacey, it sounds like you’re heading down the family mediation process, so that’s the right path for you to work towards a resolution here. We also highly recommend both you and your partner take the Parenting Through Separation course too: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/parenting-through-separation/. You can access this through the courts, and it’s usually the first step in mediation. It can really help parents to make sure the child’s rights remain front and centre of the process. Best of luck. — Jarrod

Stacey Thomas

Thanks jarrod I have recently attended the parenting through separation course before applying for mediation. I just wondering because my ex is saying that my son won’t want to see me and wants nothing to do with me is he even able to make that decision?

KF

Hi Stacey, unless there are issues of child safety, or other factors going on here, then basically no, you cannot be refused access to your child. What that access might look like, how it will be managed, and how it will be maintained, will all be determined through the mediation process and possibly a parenting agreement. You really just need to let the mediation process take it’s course. All we can suggest at this stage is to remain positive, try to leave history behind you, be very present and focussed at the mediation, and above and beyond all else, make… Read more »

Lilian Love Spell

My Dear friends online, My name is amanda bella And i live in USA, ohio, I have to give this miraculous testimony, which is so unbelievable until now. I had a problem with my Ex husband 2 years ago, which lead to our break up. I was not myself again, i felt so empty inside me, my love and financial situation became worst, until a close friend of mine told me about a spell caster who helped her in the same problem too his name is Doctor Jude. I email the spell caster and i told him my problem and… Read more »

Sosad:(

I have grandchildren living in NZ. Contact for their father and his family is made extremely difficult by their mother and her family (in particular her very dominating mother). Their need for control outweighs the children’s best interests. Eldest grandchild started a Skype and was contacting me, also was emailing me – both those avenues have been shut down. If I plan a trip to visit contact is not guaranteed and I am told if I am allowed to see them the mother must be present at all times. My grandchildren want contact and have demonstrated this many times, but… Read more »

KF

Hi, and thanks for your comment. The Care and Protection of Children Act specifically notes a child should continue to have a relationship with their extended family: 5(e) a child should continue to have a relationship with both of his or her parents, and that a child’s relationship with his or her family group, whānau, hapū, or iwi should be preserved and strengthened. The difficult thing is ensuring continuity of that relationship from overseas. I would suggest you reconsider mediation and, if this fails again, you can apply through the New Zealand Courts for access. You may find you need… Read more »

Sosad:(

Thank you Jarrod. I intend to resume mediation, but consider the mother’s claims she can’t afford it, ie by requesting mediation I am taking away money she needs for the boys. Using lawyers and going through the Family Court is a very long, stressful and drawn out process. If the mother was truly caring of the children and put her energy into what is ultimately best for them that process would not be necessary. She obviously disregards whānau, hapū, or iwi along with the teachings of her ‘family’ church.

Sylvia

Hi, i have a almost 8 month old demand breastfed baby who wont take a bottle and her father wants to take her away from me for 6 seperate days a month, as we were never together etc i am the sole gaurdian he pays child support and has rights i have never not let him see her or anything but is he aloud to take her away even if i say no or does he have a leg to stand on if it goes to mediation or whatever?? Thanks

KF

Hi Sylvia. It’s great to hear that the father wants to be in your child’s life. The more family your child has around them as they grow, the better it will be for their development in the long term. In terms of taking a breastfeed infant away overnight, this is something you’ll need to negotiate with the father. In terms of how a mediator would look at this situation, the Ministry of Justice says “Infants and toddlers usually do best if they have a home base with one parent and frequent visits with the other parent. Short visits 3 or… Read more »

Anna max

HOW I GOT MY HUSBAND BACK I am Anna by name. Greetings to every one that is reading this testimony. I have been rejected by my husband after three(7) years of marriage just because another woman had a spell on him and he left me and the kid. one day when i was reading through the web, i saw a post on how this spell caster on this Prophet called Abulele has helped a lady in her marriage with his address (prophetabulelehealingtemple@gmail.com), to get back her husband and i gave him a reply to his address and he told me… Read more »

Anonymous12335

What if we never lived together nor financially supported each other?

disqus_ZyYl8Uq52a

Im pregnant but not with the father… im wary of his continuous lack of follow through on promises he makes and concerned that behaviour may continue after child is born…what are my rights?

KF

Hi there, you might want to find out more about ‘guardianship’ here: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/guardians-and-guardianship/ But you should also probably find out more about ‘de facto’ relationships. This is where you’ve been living together as a couple for a period of time: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/separation-divorce/divide-relationship-property/relationships-covered-by-law/ Also, you might want to find out more about making a will: https://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/articles/making-a-will/ — Jarrod.

Anonymous12335

We have never lived together or financially supported each other during the time we were dating… therefore what are my rights? What are his?

tana

My partner and I have both come out of bad relationships. The issue is we were married to siblings. He was technically my brother-in-law (not my blood). His ex-wife is my ex-husbands sister. I have 2 children to my ex and my partner has a son to his ex. We both parent our own son together. His ex has filed a restraining order against him so he is unable to see or contact his son (this is due to the hurt we have caused, but no physical evidence of any abuse). My ex has been in jail since February 2016… Read more »

KF

Hi there, in terms of visitation rights, you can go to mediation to try and resolve the dispute. If this is unsuccessful, you can apply for a Parenting Order. For both options start here: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/when-you-dont-agree/ . You’ve mentioned you’re also scared for your safety. It may be that a family group conference is required in your situation: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/care-and-protection/ Or, you might like to read some of the info here: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/domestic-violence/ — Jarrod

Lisa Wotts

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Questioning

Hi. My ex and myself have shared guardianship and shared custody of are kids over the last 5 yrs. He has now informed me that he plans to move overseas indefinitely and leave the kids in my care. Do I have a legal right to become their sole guardian. I’m thinking he will resist that.

KF

Hi Anjana, there is a process for assigning legal guardianship to children. Find out more here: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/guardians-and-guardianship/ Just be aware of the rights of the other parent and, in particular, the right to pay for child support. Guardianship may effect this, you should definitely seek advice on it. Find out more here: https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/child-support/one-party-lives-overseas/ — Jarrod

Questioning

Thanks heaps. Will certainly do as advised. Cheers.

Kennedy Smith

urgent spell that work i never believe that there still exist a real death spell caster after all this years of disappointment from the enormous spammers on the Internet who go about scamming people, until i was opportune to meet peter wise , through a close friend Mrs Amandip who he (peter Wise) had helped before in casting death spell on her enemies,so i quickly contact him ,when i contacted him with his email via peterwiseherbalcenter@gmail.com ,i explain how my ex have been giving me problems in my marriage , she never allowed me a moment of peace, all she… Read more »

Stefy_81

Hi just wanting to know re child support payments to a custodial parent in NZ and my child’s rights 16.. her father has custody of her she ran away from home last year and is living with my family member. Is she eligible for any sort of payment from WINZ for school fees etc. I’m unsure if he has updated this with WINZ probably not! and he doesn’t want anything to do with her. She is happy where she is at the moment safe and well looked after I have given her the option of moving here with me and… Read more »

KF

Hi Stefy. You will need to seek legal advice for this situation. It sounds to me as if your child’s current guardian should apply to the Courts to become your child’s legal guardian in this situation https://www.justice.govt.nz/family/care-of-children/guardians-and-guardianship/. That way, the family member can collect child support from both yourself, and the father. That would seem a fair arrangement if they have custody full time. But there’s a lot more details that need discussing here, and you’ll either need specialist advice, or to go through the Courts and use a mediator. — Jarrod

Mike

I’m overseas, have seen child 1time 2weeks in 4 years. No calls, nothing. I paid way above for child support until mother lied and now less. Still married and unsure why. Want custody and believe mums coo coo. Where to start???

KF

Hi Mike, regarding international custody payment arrangements, you could start here: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/products/a-z-benefits/international-custody-dispute-payment-sng.html#null And regarding international custody, this depends where you live. In most countries you need to apply to our family court, via your country’s family court. You should seek specialist advice from a family lawyer in your country that deals with disputes in New Zealand. Try here for more: http://communitylaw.org.nz/community-law-manual/chapter-26-parents-guardians-and-caregivers/relocation-disputes-and-international-child-abduction-chapter-26/ — Jarrod

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