We have been in lockdown before, so we know the rules and expectations of us as a member of our team of 5 million. This lockdown will feel familiar for many, particularly for people in areas who faced additional lockdowns or heightened restrictions following 2020. Despite this, it’s understandable that a return to Alert Level 4 may cause worry and upset for people throughout the country.

Lockdowns are particularly stressful for separated parents and families who are used to moving between households. At this stage, lockdown is only confirmed for three days nationwide and seven days for Auckland and the Coromandel. It is still worthwhile refreshing our minds on crucial advice for the safety and well-being of children during this period.

At the time of our previous lockdown, the Family Court provided guidance for separated families. It was made clear that parents needed to continue to make decisions that were in the best interest of their children. The purpose of the lockdown, which is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect people from unnecessary risk of exposure, needs to be part of that decision-making process.

The guidance given by the Family Court includes:

Where there is a shared care arrangement, and the families are in different towns or communities, the safety of the children and others in their family units should not be compromised by movement between those homes, particularly if there are more than two homes involved.

At COVID-19 Alert Level 4, children may move between two homes if:

  • the two homes are a shared bubble – only two homes can make up this shared bubble; and
  • the two homes must be in the same or neighbouring communities.

Generally, children in the same communities can continue to go between their homes, unless:

  • The child is unwell. In this case, the child should not travel between homes until they are well
  • Someone in either home is unwell
  • Someone involved (i.e. the child or people in the home they have been in or will go to) has been overseas in the last 14 days OR has been in close contact with someone who is currently being tested for Covid-19 OR has been in close contact with someone who has the virus or is being tested.

Parents and caregivers should discuss if shared custody arrangements put them at unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19. If the health and safety of your children is a concern, then it is advised you reach an agreement that limits movements between households. This may mean the child may stay with one parent/caregiver for the initial lockdown period.

  • Children should be accompanied by an adult when moving between homes
  • Private vehicles should be used, where possible. Public transport can be used where there are no alternatives
  • Where children cannot move between homes, the Court would expect indirect contact – such as by phone or social media messaging – to be generous.

Parents are encouraged to put aside their conflict at this time and make decisions that are in the best interests of the child and their families and the wider community.

The pandemic and this current lockdown should not be seen as an opportunity for parents to unilaterally change established care arrangements without cause or otherwise behave in a manner inconsistent with the child’s best interests or the court-ordered care arrangements.

For More Information

For up to date information, families are referred to the Unite against COVID-19 website. If you are unsure how this applies to your situation, contact one of our family lawyers today: 

Our people are continuing to work from home and are available by phone, email, text, facetime, zoom, whatever way we can be to support you. We are well resourced and remain committed to continuing to provide cost-effective and creative outcomes for you.

Shared Childcare Arrangements | JB Morrison Lawyers