It can be stressful and overwhelming to be served with court proceedings. 

Getting early legal advice on your options and any relevant timeframes is key.  Most court documents are served in-person. However, the court can order substituted service (service by other means) in certain circumstances. This could be by way of email, Facebook post, via another person, or by newspaper advertisement etc.  The date you are served is important because that is when your timeframe for responding to or defending the application starts.  

Response time

It is important to understand what your timeframe is for responding to court proceedings.  In the Family Court you are usually given 21 days, but in urgent circumstances the court can reduce that – sometimes to a day or two.  You should try to ensure that any response you file is done so within the timeframe specified, as there are no guarantees otherwise that you will be allowed to take part in the case.  Sometimes there are circumstances which mean filing within the timeframe is not possible – for example, if you have been unable to find a lawyer, or you have been unwell.  You can seek leave (permission) to file “out of time”, but it is best to speak with a lawyer about doing so.  

Legal advice

You should get expert legal advice on the case, so that you are aware of your rights, responsibilities, options, and prospects of success. You need to decide whether you agree with what has been said in the documents, and what is being asked for, or not.

Some examples:

  • Your ex-partner might apply for a protection order against you, alleging you have been violent, and that they are afraid of you. You need to consider things like – whether what they have said is true or not, whether a temporary protection order is in place, and how a protection order could impact other areas of your life (such as shared care of your tamariki).

  • You could be served with an application by your children’s grandparents, for care (custody) or contact (access) with them. You need to consider things like – the grounds on which they have filed the application, what the law provides, and the practicalities of their proposals. If they are seeking full care based on safety issues, then you will need to carefully consider what evidence you put forwards to deal with that.

  • You might be served with relationship property proceedings by your spouse or ex-partner. You need to consider things like – whether you agree your relationship was “qualifying” under the law and subject to the equal-sharing rules, what property is classified as relationship property and what is classified as separate property, and how your property would be divided by the Court. Your timeframes for filing your notice of defence, narrative affidavit, and affidavit of assets and liabilities, are important.

In summary, taking early legal advice will help you understand the next steps you need to take and the process, and assist you in progressing matters.  

Separation and Property Division | JB Morrison


If you have any questions or would like more assistance with this, please contact our expert family lawyers for a confidential discussion on 04 472 0020.

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