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Harmans Lawyers
Level 2
Westpac Building
79-81 Cashel Steet
Central City
Christchurch 8011
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Seniors Law
Phillipa Shaw - 03 379 7835

Given the current COVID-19 environment we have temporarily disabled our ‘feedback’ feature. We apologise for any inconvenience.

The Seniors Team at Harmans specialises in legal issues relating to seniors. Our friendly team offers practical advice in plain English so you have peace of mind and feel confident in making decisions that are right for you and your family.

Visit us in our new offices within the Central City, or we can come to you with our home visit service and other alternative locations.

Our Seniors Team is here to help you through all stages of life. We specialise in:
•Enduring Powers of Attorney
•Occupation Right Agreements
•Rest Home Subsidies or Loans
•Funeral Trusts
•Property Ownership
•Estate Planning
•Asset Protection
•Any legal issues that seniors face
Service Description
Service Description
Elderly Services & Seniors Law Team

Having provided a full range of legal services to the people of Canterbury since 1888 it was a natural progression for Harmans to establish and develop areas of law that will provide their clients with expert advice in an increasingly diversified legal environment.

One such speciality area of law is the Elderly Services and Seniors Law Team, which was formed by Harmans in 1999 to coincide with the International Year of the Older Person.

Over the past 17 years, the Seniors Law Team has built on those early foundations and continues to diversify and grow as the baby boomer generation moves into retirement and the need for specialist legal advice in this area of law rapidly increases.

Examples of specialist areas of law, with a specific impact on seniors, are:

•the growth of the retirement village industry and the need for expert legal advice prior to entry into an Occupation Right Agreement

•the criteria surrounding eligibility for a Residential Care Subsidy, which requires a working knowledge of the current regulations, including the relevant asset and income testing levels and the Work and Income gifting regime, particularly in relation to Discretionary or Family Trusts

•property ownership and how this may impact on you and your family as you move into retirement

The Seniors Law Team also ensures that clients have:

•robust advice on asset protection and estate planning and how this will affect them as they move into retirement

•valid Enduring Powers of Attorney for both Property and Personal Care & Welfare

•valid Wills

•assistance with a variety of legal work such as, conveyancing, Trust formation and on-going administration

Harmans Seniors Law Team is based at our City office.

One of our goals is to ensure that all of our Senior clients have access to legal advice and assistance. Sometimes that requires us to take our service to our clients. We can therefore arrange appointments in our clients’ homes, or when required, in the care facility or hospital they are residing in, either to take instructions or to witness their execution of the documents.
Updated: 24 Aug 2021
Languages Spoken
Languages Spoken
Language Status Details
English Yes
Updated: 27 Apr 2017
What's New
What's New

Grandparent Contact

“My daughter-in-law, my son etc. won’t let me see my grandchild.  What can I do?”

“My son, my daughter-in-law are incapable of looking after my grandchild or grandchildren and I believe they are unsafe.  What should I do?”

“What legal redress can I access to ensure their safety?” 

“It’s so expensive, how can I afford legal representation?  Can I get Legal Aid?”

Each of the above scenarios could run to a chapter in a family law text.  For present purposes I intend to confine this article to some comment on the underlying legal position and signposting steps you can take to resume or improve contact, ensure grandchildren are safe and also explore opportunities for external funding (if you want legal representation and you do not have sufficient resources to fund legal representation).

Conventional wisdom of the importance of grandparents in a grandchild’s life is preserved both in underlying legislation and decided cases.

We live in a challenging environment complicated by the need to respond to Covid19 and the uncertainties and stresses that that creates virtually on a daily basis.  Resilience is challenged and that in turn challenges the relationships we have with those who are near and dear to us, and sadly on occasion that leads to fall outs within families.  Children can become the unintended victims in the sense that contact with important people in their lives (grandparents) can be diminished or in some cases cut off entirely because of adult issues. 

It is reassuring to note that there are decisions of the Courts which recognise and affirm the importance of grandparents in a child’s life. 

In the 2016 decision Sinclair v Hayden [2016] NZFC 3648 the Court helpfully confirms that the conventional wisdom that it takes “a village to raise a child”.  Whilst parents retain the primary role in providing care for the children in making important decisions for them, the legislation (Care of Children Act 2004) recognizes at principle 5(e) that a child should “continue to have a relationship with both his or her parents, and that a child’s relationship with his or her family group, whanau, hapu or Iwi should be “preserved and strengthened”.  That principle is the legislative pathway for grandparents seeking to establish a resumption of contact with their grandchildren where it has been cut off or frustrated at the outset.

The Act is effectively saying that it is a child’s right to have those relationships (i.e. contact with grandparents preserved and strengthened).

In Sinclair v Hayden Judge Russell commented that grandparents must not diminish or inadvertently affect the role the parents play in the child’s upbringing.  Having said that however the Judge then offered this commentary on the importance of grandparents “….good grandparents can teach children much about life which the children’s own parents cannot.  They come from a different generation, and can teach children matters from a different perspective than the child’s own parents”.  In the particular case the Judge found that grandparents were positive role models. 

In practical terms (if you find yourself if in the difficult situation of not being able to have contact with your grandchildren), then the first step is to go through a process called Family Dispute Resolution, or “FDR”.  This is a mediation process and in Christchurch you can contact Family Works or Fairway Resolution to start the ball rolling.  This is available in circumstances where you have tried to persuade your children to allow contact and they have either stopped contact or refused to engage with you.   They will provide some in house counselling and discussions, and ultimately run a mediation, led by a professional in the area.  FDR does involve an upfront fee from you, however depending on your circumstances it could be free, for everyone involved.  The above providers provide funded services depending on your finances, and there are a number of other providers who also provide this service privately. If you approach your local provider they will be able to provide further information in that regard. 

If that process is unsuccessful then you would need to apply for leave (section 47(e)) i.e. permission from the Court to commence your application.  A new application motivated by a genuine interest in your grandchildren and a desire to have a meaningful relationship with them is likely to be granted.  The application involves a formal application, an affidavit outlining particular circumstances of your case and your grandchild’s situation and what you want.  It is served on the children’s parents who then get an opportunity to respond.  A lawyer can in certain circumstances be appointed to ascertain the views of the children. 

It is not unusual for that process to then take many months until you reach the point where you get a hearing.  On the upside the majority of family law cases settle before a hearing is required. An application could be the spark that helps families engage and reach a satisfactory outcome. 

If you have a concern that your grandchild is living in an unsafe environment and your efforts to engage with the parents have been rebuffed or ignored, then in the first instance you should contact Oranga Tamariki.  It is a process known as making a referral.  It is always a difficult decision for you to take but as you know from being a parent and (a grandparent), that often involves making difficult calls.  You can contact Oranga Tamariki on 0508 326 459.

In circumstances where you do not have sufficient resources of your own, you can apply for Legal Aid.  Again that process should be undertaken with your lawyer who will make an application and you should get a response within 1 -2 weeks which will tell you whether or not your application would be funded.

If you find yourself in the predicament above, then you should contact your lawyer to discuss what can be done.  At Harmans we have a team of five lawyers in the family team who have a broad depth of knowledge in the area of family law.  You can give either Harriet Daley, Mimi Simpson or Charlie Robson a call on 03 379 7835 to arrange an appointment to discuss your situation. 

Updated: 23 Sep 2021