Family Law

At Ford Sumner, we understand that resolving family disputes can be an especially stressful and emotional time. We have the skill and expertise to help you carefully navigate these issues, and provide you with bespoke advice to achieve enduring outcomes.


Our Family Law team is led by Associate Ruth Williams, who has expert knowledge in multiple areas of Family Law. Ruth was previously a clerk to the Principal Family Court Judge, where she provided broad research, executive and legal support. She has an in-depth understanding of the “why” as well as the “how” to key areas of Family Law including Care of Children, Relationship Property, Child Protection, and Protection of Personal and Property Rights. Ruth has previously made numerous appearances in the Family Court representing the State in Child Protection proceedings.

Associate Jordan Todd also has significant experience across a wide range of Family Law matters including Relationship Property (both contracting out agreements and resolution of disputes), Adoption, Guardianship, Partnership Visa applications and all aspects of Estate Planning. 

Partner Jaesen Sumner works with both Ruth and Jordan, bringing a broad knowledge and understanding of Family Law matters to the team, with particular expertise in Estate claims and disputes.

We assist clients through this delicate area of law by appreciating the bigger picture of family dynamics. We apply a careful and considered approach, take time to understand your unique situation, and focus on achieving fair, appropriate and expedient outcomes for our clients. 

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Why Ford Sumner Lawyers?

To ensure we offer the strongest possible Family Law service, at Ford Sumner we have established an innovative partnership with a specialist, highly experienced Family Law Barrister who we consult (and where necessary, formally instruct) for expert assistance on particularly complex matters. This means we are able to assist with the full range of potential issues, regardless of their complexity. You can be assured that we have the requisite skill and expertise to advise you, without compromise. 


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As part of advising on Family Law matters, we can give you advice and support through a range of circumstances including:


Permanent care of children in care and protection

If you are a caregiver of a child in the custody of Oranga Tamariki and are considering applying for legal permanent care, or you have received a letter from Oranga Tamariki regarding making applications for permanent care of a child in your care, we can help. Ruth has particular expertise in care and protection matters, having represented the Chief Executive in Oranga Tamariki proceedings and providing legal advice to social workers. We understand the intricacies of care and protection matters and the importance of ensuring you are informed and supported throughout the process.

We can:

  • Provide tailored advice on the options available to you to have permanent care of a child in your care;
  • Advise you on important considerations such as guardianship and contact arrangements;
  • Advise you on your entitlements to ongoing support;
  • Help you understand the Permanent Care Support Plan, and negotiate the plan with the Permanent Caregiver Support Service (PCSS)/Oranga Tamariki on your behalf; and
  • Represent you in the Family Court.

Whether you are based in Wellington City, or the wider Wellington area (including Porirua and the Hutt Valley), we can assist. We have flexible arrangements meaning we can meet with you in person or remotely, in accordance with your needs. 


Ending a relationship

It can be a stressful time ending a relationship. Alongside the emotional burden, often there are several legal matters that need to be considered. We can help you:

  • understand your entitlements to property other assets you have and help you reach agreement or determinations relating to division of property when you separate.
  • negotiate and formalise the care arrangements for your children.
  • understand your entitlements or obligations to financial support from your previous partner at the end of the relationship.

Determining how property is divided before a relationship ends – the “what if…?”

Whether a current relationship might end in the future is not something many of us want to think about, or want to discuss with our current partner. However, when there is property or assets involved, it is worth considering how you wish to deal with that property in case of the “what if…”. 

Whether you are entering a new relationship, or you are current in a relationship, we can help you agree how to deal with your property in the event you separate. These are often referred to as “prenuptial” or “contracting out” agreements. They allow you to determine with reasonable certainty what happens with your property if the relationship ends.

You may be how to protect your own property, or you may have been asked to consider a contracting our agreement by your partner. We can give you independent advice to help you to make a fully informed decision that is right for you.


Resolving differences regarding your children

We understand that decision making regarding children can be complicated for separated or blended families. There can be differences and disagreements around important matters relating to your child’s care and upbringing. This includes deciding where your children go to school, where they live, and what medical treatment they receive.

When the important people in your child’s life cannot agree on these important issues, we can help. We can support you to achieve child-focused resolutions to:

  • enforce or vary parenting or access arrangements;
  • resolve disagreements around guardianship issues (e.g. education, medical, and other)

Caring for vulnerable family members

We can help you put formal arrangements in place in the event you become incapable of making important decisions regarding your personal care, property and welfare. Enduring Powers of Attorney grants special powers to a person you trust to make decisions for you if you can no longer make those decisions for yourself.

We can also help you if you are concerned about a relative you believe is no longer able to make important decisions for themselves, but they have not appointed Powers of Attorney. We can give you advice on whether you can apply be appointed as a welfare guardian or property manager.


Creating or Challenging a will

Most people want to be able to determine what happens to our property after we die and ensure that our loved ones are cared for. We provide tailored advice to:

  • guide you through the estate planning process and
  • help you draft a clear and concise will which protects your wishes after you have passed away.

We can also advise you if you believe you have not received an entitlement from a person’s will that you should have done. We can advise you:

  • whether you have the ability to challenge the will;
  • the prospects of success if you wish to do so; or
  • if you have been served with an application to contest a will, we can help you defend a claim.

Please note: If you require legal aid assistance in relation to your Family Law matter, we will have to refer you on to a Law Firm that is government contracted to provide legal aid.


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We've put together a Family Law Article Series 'Demystifying Separation', where we explore the intricacies of separation. 

Find Out More


Meet our family law experts and their experience below: 



Jaesen Sumner

Jaesen Sumner

Read Jaesen’s Bio

Ruth Williams

Ruth Williams

Read Ruth’s Bio

Joanne Cheer

Joanne Cheer

Read Joanne’s Bio