Care of children

How should you respond when contacted by a court appointed lawyer for a student?

The principal or deputy principal should be the only ones to liaise with the lawyer for the child in the first instance. 

The consent of the principal is required if a court appointed lawyer wishes to interview a student at school. You are not obliged to give your consent.

Lawyers for the child may be appointed under:

Care of Children Act 2004, section 7 – Legislation website

Children's and Young People's Well-being Act 1989, section 159 – Legislation website 

Family Violence Act 2018, section 166 – Legislation website

If a parent asks a school to be involved in Family Court proceedings, to provide evidence or reports, it is recommended that the school declines to take one side against the other, but offers to both parents to make the information available to the lawyer for the child.

Key points to be aware of:

  • Counsel should exercise caution before deciding to interview children at school. 
  • The school's consent is required before any such interview is conducted.
  • If counsel is to interview the child at school, it is desirable to obtain the prior consent of the parents and to notify the school of those consents. A school may wish to defer the interview if the timing is inappropriate, for example if insufficient notice has been given, or if the proposed time will interfere with the child's education, or if the school believes on reasonable grounds that the interview at the time would greatly upset the child. The school may also choose to decline permission where parental consent has not yet been obtained.

Other important issues:

  • Information obtained from a school is not covered by legal privilege and school staff may be called to provide evidence in court, should the matter advance that far, and may be subject to cross examination.
  • Should the lawyer for the child wish to speak to a member of staff, a principal, board member or school lawyer may (and probably should) be present.

Contact NZSTA with any questions regarding this issue.

 Updated: October 2011

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