We know these are worrying times for parents, particularly separated parents whose children usually move between households. Our Family Court has given some guidance for these families and made it clear that the overriding consideration is for parents to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children. Consideration must be given to the purpose of Alert Level 3 and 4, which is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within New Zealand.
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.
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 would allow COVID-19 to potentially spread without them being aware and reach an agreement that limits this. This may mean the child may stay with one parent/caregiver for the initial 4 week 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 must 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. 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 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.