News & Views
Aug 18

Managing shared custody and childcare during COVID-19

The situation around COVID-19 and the discovery of the delta variant in the community has been fast evolving. New Zealand entered a full level 4 lockdown as of 11:59 pm last night.

These are unpredictable times, and many have questions about what this means for their existing shared care arrangements.

Can I still see my children if they live in the same town or city?

If you are living in the same community as your children, they can move between homes. Meaningful contact should be encouraged, as long as it does not compromise the health of their families and the wider community.

Children should not move between homes if:

  • The child is unwell. The child should not travel between homes until they are well.
  • Someone is sick in either home.
  • Anyone involved (the child or people in the home they have been in or will go to) has: 
    • been overseas in the last 14 days;
    • 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.

Are there conditions to moving the children between homes? 

Yes, if children are moving between homes, they should be accompanied by an adult, preferably in a private vehicle.

Can I still see my children if they are with a parent who is on another alert level?

Where households are in different alert levels, children can still move between their family groups under a parenting arrangement while still following public health guidelines.

If your children cannot move between homes, the Court would expect indirect contact, such as phone or social media messaging. We would encourage parents to facilitate contact and be generous with contact time so that the child feels loved and cared for by both parents through this difficult time. It is also a good idea to make a plan to make up for any time missed by the parent who does not have care of the children during the lockdown period, once it is over.

We all live in the same town/city, but I don’t like our current care regime. Can I change it now?

The government and the courts have made it clear that the pandemic is not an opportunity for parents to unilaterally change established care arrangements without cause.

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

If direct contact can be facilitated safely, parents should stick to their existing care arrangements.

Can I still see my children if we live in different towns or cities? 

Where families with a shared care arrangement are in different cities or communities (i.e. more than a one-hour drive apart), children should not be moving between homes as this may compromise the safety of the children and others in their family units, especially if there are more than two homes involved.

Concluding thoughts

The purpose of the increased measures is to restrict movement and contain a global pandemic. That reality should remain front and centre.

Your children will be feeling uneasy as their schools are closed, and regular routines are disrupted. Parents need to place their conflict to one side, and place the safety and wellbeing of their children first.

If you have any queries regarding shared care arrangements or you require urgent assistance, you can contact our Family Law team:

Thomas Nation at  |  027 463 5134; 

Leticia Glover  |  (03) 6877 387; or 

Helpful resources: 

** As with all aspects of this COVID-19 situation, matters are changing and evolving at a fast pace. The above advice reflects our current view based on the information we have to hand at this time. Accordingly, it is subject to change, so please get in touch with us for the most up to date guidance and advice.