Care of Children Arrangements through COVID-19 Lockdown
With Auckland remaining in COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown this will likely have implications for parents who have Parenting Orders, shared care arrangements or those who are involved in Family Court proceedings.
The purpose of the lockdown is to prevent the transmission of the virus. With the presence of a new strain, the highly contagious Delta variant, Principal Family Court Judge, Judge Moran has provided updated guidance regarding the management of care of children arrangements.
Care of children arrangements may continue to proceed as long as it is between two bubbles and both parents live in the same city. For parents that live in different cities, face to face contact should be temporarily ceased. It is important to remember that children will be experiencing disruption and uncertainty due to these changes, therefore how parents deal with this is important. The Court expects that indirect contact such as video calls through Skype or FaceTime, phone calls, and social media messaging should be encouraged where face to face contact cannot occur.
If parents have children from previous relationships, resulting in three or more bubbles, parents should consult together to make the best decision for their children. This may result in children staying with one parent or caregiver during this time. It is important to remember that this is not an opportunity to unilaterally change the care of children arrangements. Conflict needs to be put aside and parents need to behave in a way that is in the best interest of the children.
With the recent amount of outbreaks due to Delta and the increasing amount of locations of interest, if someone is required to self-isolate due to being a close or casual contact, then it is recommended travel between bubbles cease and Ministry of Health advice strictly adhered to.
When facilitating the move between bubbles, children should be accompanied by a parent or caregiver from the shared bubble. The use of private vehicles is the safest option and is encouraged where possible, however, public transport continues to operate at this time and if there is no other alternatives then this can be used. Children over the age of twelve are required to wear a mask. Social distancing and the use of tracer apps should also be used. It will be useful if stopped by police to provide documentation of your shared care arrangement (such as a Parenting Order if you have one), however this is not mandatory.
The Family Court will not be conducting face to face hearings or conferences but they remain open during COVID-19 Alert Level 4 to deal with priority proceedings.
Please note this article should not constitute legal advice; each party’s situation is different and needs to be assessed accordingly. Franklin Law remains open during Alert Level 4 and all staff are working remotely. If you have any family matters that you require assistance with please do not hesitate to contact one of our Family Law Teams.
Written by Kitty Chan