Guidance for managing shared parenting during COVID-19 alert levels

New guidance has been released about parenting arrangements at different alert levels. This includes arrangements set out in court orders under the Care of Children Act 2004 and private arrangements between caregivers of children. The information addresses some frequently asked questions as well as examples of what each alert level might look like for parents, families and whānau.

Updated 29 May 2020 at 12pm

COVID-19 Alert Level 2

At COVID-19 Alert Level 2, parenting arrangements can return to normal, while still following public health measures. Children still must not move between households if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, awaiting a test, or required to self-isolate. 

Household bubbles do not need to be maintained and you can reconnect with friends and family, in a safe way. There is no restriction on distance of domestic travel. Travel in a safe way, following public health measures.

Public health measures still apply including keeping two metres distance from people you don’t know when out in public and one metre physical distancing in control environments like workplaces.

It is safe to send your children to schools, early learning services and tertiary education. There will be appropriate measures in place.

Workplaces and business can open but must follow public health guidance including physical distancing and contract tracing. Alternative ways of work are encouraged where possible.

More detailed questions and answers about parenting arrangements at COVID-19 Alert Level 2 are set out below.

Questions & answers for shared parenting

I have an arrangement with a parent who lives near me, should we continue with the parenting arrangements?

Under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 parenting arrangements return to normal, while still following public health measures. Children still must not move between households if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, awaiting a test, or required to self-isolate.

Children can travel freely within New Zealand for the purpose of parenting arrangements. There is no restriction on distance of domestic travel.

You can find information and measures to stay safe and well on the COVID-19 website.

COVID-19 website(external link)

If your child or children can’t see their other family group in person, ensure they have as much access as possible by other means – such as by phone, Facetime, Skype and other social media applications. We encourage parents to be generous with phone or social media contact.

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I rely on public transport, is it safe for me to use public transport at COVID-19 Alert Level 2?

Public transport is available to anyone at COVID-19 Alert Level 2. Keep in mind that there’s less capacity on public transport because of physical distancing so if you can, consider travelling at off-peak times or walking or cycling. You should not travel on public transport if you’re unwell.

Councils and operators will review public transport timetables in response to demand pressures.

More information on how to stay safe while using public transport is available on the Ministry of Transport website.

Ministry of Transport website(external link)

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I’ve got a Family Court hearing coming up for my Protection Order/Parenting Order - what do I need to do?

Information about the Family Court under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 can be found at Courts of New Zealand COVID-19 protocols.

Courts of New Zealand COVID-19 protocols(external link)

Please call 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) if you need other information about courts. 

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I have an arrangement with a parent who is in another area, can we continue with this arrangement?

Yes. There is no restriction on the distance of domestic travel.

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Our parenting arrangements mean that there are more than two households involved, i.e. the house the child is going to has children from a third house. Should we continue with the parenting arrangements?

 Yes. Household bubbles do not need to be maintained, there is no restriction on distance of domestic travel. Travel in a safe way, following public health measures.

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I need legal advice – how do I get it?

Lawyers are able to provide advice during COVID-19 Alert Level 2. They will do this following public health measures.

Legal aid is available. A list of legal aid lawyers is on the Ministry of Justice website:

Find a legal aid lawyer(external link)

You may be eligible for assistance from a Community Law Centre. You should phone them first, as a range of working practices are now in place across the country to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.  You can find their contact details on the Community Law website:

Community Law: Our Law Centres(external link)

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What happens if we can’t agree how to manage the parenting arrangements? Will the Family Court hear the case?

Information about the Family Court under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 can be found at the Courts of New Zealand website.

Courts of New Zealand COVID-19 protocols(external link)

Lawyers are working and may be able to assist you. They will do this following public health measures.

Please call 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) if you need other information about courts. 

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We were doing Family Dispute Resolution, will that keep happening?

These services will be available but the way it is delivered will change, including doing some of the programme remotely by phone or web-based. Check with your provider for ways they can help during COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

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Other Alert Levels

COVID-19 Alert Level 4

At COVID-19 Alert Level 4, children may move between two households (bubbles) under a parenting arrangement. The travel must be within the same or adjacent District Health Boards. Long distance travel is not recommended i.e. more than an hour. The child is the only one who can swap between the two bubbles.

If children are moving between two bubbles they should be accompanied by an adult. Guidance on transport arrangements for children can be found at the Ministry of Transport website.

COVID-19 transport and travel guidance by alert level(external link)

The Principal Family Court Judge has issued guidance at COVID-19 Alert Level 4, which you can find at the District Courts website.

Guidance for children in shared care and COVID-19 Alert Level 4(external link)


COVID-19 Alert Level 3

At COVID-19 Alert Level 3, children may move between households (bubbles) under a parenting arrangement. At COVID-19 Alert Level 3, household bubbles can be extended from COVID-19 Alert Level 4 (for example, to reconnect with close family who live nearby) but must remain exclusive.

Children are no longer limited to moving between two bubbles as part of a parenting arrangement, but it is still important that the number of bubbles between which children are moved is only as large as is necessary and in line with your parenting arrangement.

There is no restriction on the distance of travel, children can move between different regions. However, only travel where you need to and follow the general rule of keeping travel to a minimum. You should take a copy of your court order or parenting arrangement with you, to help explain your travel.

Private vehicles should be used, where possible, but public transport can be used where there are no alternatives. For caregivers who have a court order, children may travel by domestic air or inter-island ferry. For the most up to date information on transport arrangements for children, please see the Ministry of Transport website:

COVID-19 transport and travel guidance by alert level(external link)

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