Covid-19 Lockdown: Shared Parenting in Uncertain Times

Covid-19 Lockdown: Shared Parenting in Uncertain Times

The urgent steps taken within 48 hours to move into Covid-19 Alert Level 4 has left many parents scrambling to work out how this impacts their Shared Care Agreements and Parenting Orders during lockdown.  Parents are doing their best to navigate these issues at a time of heightened concern and stress.  The main guidance issued by the Principle Family Court Judge, Judge Moran, is for parents to make decisions that are in the best interests of their children.  Parents are reminded the primary intent for this lockdown is to prevent further spread of Covid-19 within our communities.  Staying home will save lives but this may mean some hard adjustments and sacrifices by parents in shared care and parenting arrangements.  

Parenting Orders and Agreements – Can Children Travel?

The Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, confirms that shared care or contact arrangements for children can continue between parents' households as long as they live within the same community.  This means that where parents live in different towns or communities then face-to-face contact must stop for the time being so as not to compromise the safety of our children or others in their households, particularly where there are more than two homes involved.  The goal is to break opportunities for transmission.  

Children should not move between homes if:

  • there is more than one hour's drive between homes;
  • 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 (ie 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 travelling between shared care homes should, if possible, have a copy of the Parenting Order or Agreement with them (either hard copy or electronically on their phone) in case they are stopped by Police.  

Children should always be accompanied by an adult when moving between homes and where possible private vehicles should be used.  Public transport can be used where there are no alternatives.

No Contact for Now

Where children cannot move between homes the Court will expect frequent, flexible and generous opportunities are given to the other parent or caregiver by phone, Skype, Zoom or social media messaging.   Inflexible and restrictive attitudes to such indirect contact between parents and children will be seen as contrary to children's best interests over this challenging time.

Judge Moran has further urged parents to put aside their conflict at this time saying that "this global pandemic 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 Court Ordered care arrangements".

How we Can Help

If a parent is being unreasonable in preventing contact either in person or via social media, please get in touch with one of our teams to discuss the options available to you.  Alternatively if there are urgent concerns for the safety and welfare of your children we can advise and assist in making an urgent application to the Family Court to vary an existing Order or grant a new Parenting Order as needed.  The Courts remain open to ensure all urgent safety matters can be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Contact Us

Please call Jackie Dale on (09) 306 6747 or by email at jdale@mcveaghfleming.co.nz.  Our teams are working remotely and can schedule a meeting with you via Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype or phone at your convenience.

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© McVeagh Fleming 2020

This article is published for general information purposes only.  Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice.  If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.