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Getting free legal advice Pt 3: 10 FREE things you can do to help resolve your family law issue

April 25, 2017

This week, I am continuing the theme of the last two blog posts about free legal advice and free legal services.  Over five years ago (yes, I cannot believe it myself – 5 years ago!), I blogged about 10 free things you can do to help resolve your family law issue so it seemed pretty apt to repost that blog.  I’ve tweaked it a little to take into account changes since 2012. Read away…

While listening to the radio while driving this afternoon, I learned that Lonely Planet has released a list of the top ten travel things you can do for free which got me to thinking about what ten free things one can do to help get through a family law issue.

While my list may not be as exciting as discovering the Staten Island ferry is still free or that entry into the Musee de Louvre is free on Sundays, it will likely be a lot more useful than LP’s list to those of you going through a separation or family law dispute.

  1. Head to – under the “Publications” section, there are a number of links to the Ministry’s brochures and fact sheets in PDF form. If it is a family law issue, there is likely to be a brochure on it here. If you don’t have access to the internet, your local Family Court or Citizen’s Advice Bureau should have copies of the brochures.
  2. Take a look at the website of Collaborative Advocacy NZ at This could open up to you the opportunity to resolve your family law issue without Court proceedings and in a far more conciliatory manner than you ever envisaged. The few lawyers trained in Collaborative Law in NZ are passionate about it so you should have no trouble finding one who will take some time to have an initial chat with you about it to see if it will suit your situation. You can find some lawyers who are willing to provide a free 20 minute consultation about Collaborative Practice here.
  3. Check out your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Most run a free legal advice clinic. You will usually have to make an appointment. These are usually only 15 minute time slots with a lawyer but such a session may help point you in the right direction towards resolving your issue.
  4. Talk to a trusted friend or family member who has already been through a separation or divorce. Be clear about what you hope to get out of the discussion. You may not be wanting someone to simply use you as a sounding board as they regurgitate the whole story of their separation so choose your person carefully and be armed with some key questions so you can get some useful tips – who would they recommend as a lawyer? As a counsellor? What worked for them? What didn’t?
  5. Want to know how much child support that you may have to pay or that you may be able to receive? has a great free child support calculator.
  6. If you are a parent of dependent children, get along to the free “Parenting through Separation” programme run through the Ministry of Justice. For most parenting and guardianship disputes, the Court requires you to have completed this programme before you file Court proceedings. My clients who have done this programme have all given positive feedback on the helpfulness of this course. Its only cost is your time. You can find a course through Plunket or  here.
  7. Inevitably a separation means an overhaul of your finances. will help you do just that – get sorted. Alternatively, most areas have a free budget advisory service. Most of the banks’ websites also have very easy to use calculators which are a great starting point for helping you calculate things like how much you can borrow, what the repayments will be etc.
  8. If you have an issue about the care arrangements for your children, see if you qualify for the free Family Legal Advice Service and Family Dispute Resolution (Mediation). If you already have Family Court proceedings about your children, you may be able to get a referal to counselling to help you and the other parent or guardian work together to make arrangements for the children’s care work.
  9. Use your local library. There is a large number of books available for adults, young people or children about separation and divorce.
  10. Listen. Sounds easy, doesn’t it, but when one is in the midst of a discussion about an emotionally charged issue it is surprisingly difficult to stop talking, stop hearing what you think the other person has said or is going to say, stop jumping to “solve” the problem being discussed and to actually just listen openly but I never said these were “free” AND “easy” tips! Listening is completely free and I am convinced it is the single most effective thing people facing a family law issue can do to resolve that issue.

If you want  help to resolve a family or relationship issue, go to

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