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Parents’ Rights and Responsibilities

Parents Rights and Responsibilities

As you get older and develop your own opinions, it is likely that you will have different views from your parents on what is best for you.

This page has information about the basic rights and responsibilities your parents have towards you, and when you can make your own decisions about important matters in your life.

At what age can I be home alone?

If you are under 14 years old, your parents or carers cannot leave you at home alone without making a reasonable arrangement for your supervision and care. This usually means making sure you have a babysitter or an older family member to look after you but it can also be in situations where you are safe and not left for a long time. This isn’t just for being home alone, it also includes being left alone in the car or any other situation that can lead to harm.

When can I babysit other children?

Generally, 14-year-olds are allowed to be home alone and babysit children under 14. But in some situations, leaving you to look after yourself could still amount to neglect or abuse even if you are 14 or slightly older, depending on how mature you are, and how long you are left alone. The Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki (OT) can become involved in your life if they think you are in need of care and protection.

What do my parents or guardians need to provide for me if I’m under 16?

Until you are 16-years-old, your parents or guardians must provide for your basic needs.  This means that you should be provided with enough food, clothing, housing/shelter, and medical treatment to survive. You also need to receive an education.  If your parents do not make sure your basic needs are being met, they could be committing a serious crime.

Can my parents decide where I live?

As part of providing for your needs, your parents can decide where you live while you are under 16.  Your parents can decide that you should live with someone else, or you might agree with your parents that you will live with someone else if that works better for your situation. In these situations, though, your parents are still financially responsible for you, so they must still pay for meeting your needs unless the people looking after you has agreed to pay for your needs.

My basic needs are not being met at home, what can I do?

If your basic needs are not being met at home, or if you are being physically, emotionally or sexually abused, you can contact the Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki (OT). OT can take steps to have you placed with foster parents or in an OT residence if, after investigating, they find that you are not in a safe environment. There are no guarantees where OT will place you, or how long they will place you somewhere for, but they are responsible for placing you in a safe environment.

You can also contact the Police, or organisations like Women’s Refuge, Shine and Shakti.

Who is my guardian?

Generally, your parents are your legal guardians, even if they are not together.  Your mother is automatically a guardian, while your father may be a guardian depending on his relationship with your mother at the time you were born.

If your parents pass away, they may select someone to be your guardian under their will.  The Court can also appoint guardians, such as another adult, the Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki (OT), or the Court itself to be your guardian.  The Court also has the power to remove guardians in certain situations, but this doesn’t happen often.


What does being a guardian mean?

A guardian has guardianship rights over a child. Guardianship is a legal term for the rights and responsibilities that an adult has in relation to raising a child.  These include:

  • Providing day-to-day care in the form of food, clothing, healthcare and a place to live;
  • Contributing to a child’s intellectual, emotional, physical, social, cultural, and other personal development;
  • Deciding, and helping the child to decide important matters like the child’s name, cultural practices, education, and contact with other guardians.

How long does guardianship last?

Guardianship lasts until you turn 18 years of age, or until you get married, enter a civil union, or live with someone as a de facto partner.  However, as you grow older, your views should have more weight, and you should have a greater say in important matters in your life.

In a court situation, the judge must listen and take account of your views before making decisions about who has guardianship over you.  This is because, under the law, your welfare and best interests are the most important factors for the Court to think about when making these decisions. However, most disputes don’t end up at Court because it is a very long, expensive and stressful process to go through.

Can I make my own decisions about my life?

Your guardians will often make a lot of decisions on your behalf while you live with them. Depending on your age and maturity, your parents should take account of what you think about important stuff in your life and encourage you to get involved in making decisions. The welfare and best interests of you must be the most important consideration.  It is important to remember that your guardians will often make good decisions for you, even if you don’t always agree with them.

If you disagree with your parents’ decision about you and you are aged 16 years or older, you can ask the Family Court to decide whether the decision can be overruled. However, this only happens in exceptional circumstances. The Family Court will generally not intervene in minor family matters like whether you can go to your friend’s sleepover.

When can I make my own decisions independently?

From the age of 18, your parents’ guardianship rights over you come to an end.  You can now make important decisions for yourself, even if these decisions are different to what your parents would want.  It is a good idea to keep getting advice when making important decisions from your parents or from other people whom you trust and respect.

Can I challenge the decisions made by my guardian before I am 18 years old?

At 16, you are able to move out of home without your parents’ consent as long as you move into a safe environment. Moving out will likely mean making most of the decisions about your own life, but that may also mean you will have to bear the financial risks of your own decisions.

Also at 16, if your parents/guardians have made a decision that you do not think is correct, you can apply to the Family Court for a Judge to change this decision.  The Judge will do this only if the decision is about something important, and if they think your parents have not made the right decision.

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