Guidance for managing shared parenting during COVID-19

UPDATE 3 December 2021: As of 11:59pm on 2 December Aotearoa will have moved to the traffic light setting.

Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua Lakes Districts, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki Districts, Gisborne District, Wairoa District, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts are set at Red.

The rest of the North Island is set at Orange.

The whole of the South Island is set at Orange.

All courts to continue operating under existing arrangements. From Monday 6 December, new transitional protocols will be in place. Further guidance to be released today on the Courts of NZ website.(external link)

We are working on updating our guidance under the traffic light (COVID Protection Framework) system and this will be available shortly. In the meantime please refer to the information available at the COVID-19 website.(external link)

Please do not come to the courthouse if you are feeling unwell. Contact 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) if you cannot enter the courthouse or are not sure whether to attend. Find contact details for a court or tribunal.

The COVID Healthline at 0800 358 5453 is also available for 24/7 advice and information about COVID-19.

Auckland is at COVID-19 Alert Level 3. The rest of Aotearoa New Zealand is at Alert Level 2.

You should continue to follow your shared parenting arrangements if it's possible to do so without breaching Alert Level rules. This guidance explains the Alert Level rules for parenting arrangements where:

A parenting arrangement is where there is:

  • a court order under the Care of Children Act 2004 saying who has day-to-day care of a child at specified times, or
  • an agreement between parents or caregivers about who has day-to-day care of a child at specified times. This includes a whāngai arrangement where whānau living in different households have a role in providing a child's day-to-day care.

This guidance does not apply to access arrangements under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

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If your home is in the Alert Level 3 area and your child’s other family or whānau group is also in the Alert Level 3 area

These rules apply when you and your child's other family or whānau  group are both in the Auckland Alert Level 3 area.

Boundaries of the Alert Level 3 area(external link)

Travel within the same Alert Level 3 area

The following rules apply if your home and your child’s other family group or whānau are located in the same Alert Level 3 area.

Children may move between homes for parenting arrangements if the homes they move between are part of an ‘extended bubble arrangement'.

An ‘extended bubble arrangement’ means an agreement by all of the residents of two or more homes within the Alert Level 3 area to behave as if they were one home for the purpose of keeping connections with family or whānau, enabling caregiving, or supporting persons living alone or otherwise isolated. An extended bubble arrangement is intended to enable parenting arrangements to continue if parents consider this to be in the best interests of the child, having considered matters like any health risks and the child’s right to a continuing relationship with both parents.

There is no restriction on the number of homes children may move between if the movement is consistent with the parenting arrangement and the ‘extended bubble arrangement’ you or the child’s other parents or caregivers are participating in. You are encouraged to keep any extended bubbles as small as possible.

Children moving between homes can only be accompanied by a person from the extended bubble. 

Only travel where you need to. When travelling within the Alert Level 3 area, we recommend you carry evidence of your parenting arrangements with you, if you have any. This will help explain your travel. Examples of evidence could include a copy of a court order if you have one, or another type of record of the arrangements you have made with the other shared caregiver.

You do not need a COVID-19 test before you travel. You should follow public health guidance. You can find information and steps to stay safe and well on the COVID-19 website(external link).

If your children can’t see their other family or whānau group in person, we encourage you to provide as much access as possible by other means – such as by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels. We encourage parents to be generous with phone or social media contact.

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If your child’s family group or whānau has one home in the Alert Level 3 area and another home in an Alert Level 2 area

Children may move between homes that are in different Alert Level areas for parenting arrangements. Testing, evidence, and other alert level requirements apply to this travel, and these are outlined below.

Requirements for travelling with a child

Children moving between Alert Level areas can only be accompanied or collected by a person who lives at one of the homes that forms part of the shared parenting arrangement. If you are travelling with a child, you should travel directly between homes in one trip. You should not stop in the other Alert Level area except to drop off or collect the child, or if it’s essential to stop, for example for an emergency.

Testing requirements when travelling out of the Auckland Alert Level 3 area

Testing requirements apply to travel out of the Auckland Alert Level 3 area into any other area. These requirements apply when you or your child have spent time in the Auckland Alert Level 3 area. They do not apply if you are travelling through Auckland in one trip without stopping there, as may occur if you travel from the Northland Alert Level 2 area to the Alert Level 2 area in the Waikato, lower North Island, or South Island, or undertake the reverse trip.

A child who is aged 12 years old and over, and any person accompanying or collecting the child, must carry either:

  • evidence that they have had a COVID-19 test in the last seven days, or
  • a medical certificate confirming they do not have COVID-19 symptoms and, for a particular physical or other need, are unable to have a COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 tests are free. Testing is available at community testing sites or from a doctor.

You do not need a test to travel from an Alert Level 2 area into an Alert Level 3 area.

Boundaries of the Alert Level 3 area(external link)

Evidence requirements when travelling between Alert Level areas

A person must carry evidence of their principal place of residence if they need to travel between Alert Level areas when returning home after:

  • accompanying a child to another caregiver’s home, or
  • collecting a child from another shared caregiver’s home.

This will help explain the travel.

Requirements when a child has travelled between Alert Level areas

Children must comply with the Alert Level requirements of the area they are in. This means children who travel from an Alert Level 2 area into the Alert Level 3 area must then follow the Alert Level 3 rules while they are in the Alert Level 3 area.

Children who travel from the Alert Level 3 area into an Alert Level 2 area must then follow the Alert Level 2 rules while they are in the Alert Level 2 area.

You should follow public health guidance. You can find information and steps to stay safe and well on the COVID-19 website(external link).

If your children can’t see their other family or whānau group in person, we encourage you to provide as much access as possible by other means – such as by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels. We encourage parents to be generous with phone or social media contact.

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If your home is in an Alert Level 2 area and your child’s other family group or whānau is also in an Alert Level 2 area

Within an Alert Level 2 area, children may move between homes for parenting arrangements.

There is no restriction on the number of homes children may move between if the movement is consistent with the parenting arrangement. There is no requirement that the homes are in the same or neighbouring territorial authorities. You do not have to carry evidence of your parenting arrangements, unless you need to travel through the Alert Level 3 area.

If travel between the homes in Alert Level 2 areas means you have to travel through the Alert Level 3 area, this is allowed if you travel directly to collect or drop off children in one trip. You can only stop in the Alert Level 3 area if essential, for example for an emergency. If you are travelling through the Alert Level 3 area, you must carry evidence of your parenting arrangements and location of your destination (your place of residence or the location of the other home). This will help explain your travel. Examples of evidence of your parenting arrangements could include a copy of a court order if you have one, or another type of record of the arrangements you have made with the other shared caregiver.

You do not need a COVID-19 test before you travel. You should follow public health guidance. You can find information and steps to stay safe and well on the COVID-19 website(external link).

If your children can’t see their other family or whānau group in person, we encourage you to provide as much access as possible by other means – such as by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels. We encourage parents to be generous with phone or social media contact.

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Questions & answers for shared parenting arrangements

My partner and I each have children from previous relationships. They stay at our home and then stay at two other homes, which means there is contact with three homes in total. Is this allowed?

Yes, this is allowed. Please refer to the guidance above for more information about requirements that apply to travel within and between Alert Level areas for parenting arrangements.

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I am vaccinated and my child’s other parent is not. What impact does vaccination status have on our shared parenting arrangement?

It is up to caregivers to decide if their parenting arrangements should be changed to take account of their vaccination status. In making this decision, we encourage caregivers to consider what would be in their child’s best interests, taking into account matters such as any health risks and the child’s right to a continuing relationship with both parents.

If caregivers can’t agree on an arrangement, we recommend they seek legal advice about their options. For more information about seeking legal advice, please refer to the question later in this guidance.

Does my child or I need to take a COVID-19 test before we travel?

You need a COVID-19 test when travelling for parenting arrangements if you are:

  • aged 12 or over; and
  • travelling out of the Auckland Alert Level 3 area into any other area.

You must carry the following information for each person the test requirements apply to, either:

  • evidence that they have had a COVID-19 test in the last seven days, or
  • a medical certificate confirming they do not have COVID-19 symptoms and, for a particular physical or other need, are unable to have a COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 tests are free. Testing is available at community testing sites or from a doctor.

You do not need a test when:

  • travelling from an Alert Level 2 area into the Alert Level 3 area, or
  • travelling between homes that are both in the Auckland Alert Level 3 area, or
  • travelling between homes that are in Alert Level 2 areas. This includes travel between Alert Level 2 areas that are separated by the Alert Level 3 area (that is, travel between the Northland Alert Level 2 area and the Alert Level 2 area in the lower North Island and South Island). Please see the guidance above for the rules about travel between Alert Level 2 areas that requires travel through the Alert Level 3 area.

What sorts of evidence can be used for the COVID-19 test?

Please see the guidance above for the situations in which a COVID-19 test or medical certificate is required.

As evidence of a COVID-19 test, you may use:

  • the text message that is sent to you confirming completion of a test, or
  • paper confirmation that is available from testing centres that do not use the automated system, for example from a doctor.

If you have had a medical examination instead of a test, you must use an electronic or paper copy of the medical certificate.

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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 different COVID-19 Alert Levels can be found on the Courts of New Zealand website at:

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 need legal advice – how do I get it?

Lawyers can provide advice during each COVID-19 Alert Level. They will do this following public health measures.

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

Find a legal aid lawyer(external link)

You may be eligible for help 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 at:

Community Law: Our Law Centres(external link)

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

Information about the Family Court under different COVID-19 Alert Levels can be found on the Courts of New Zealand website at:

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

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

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

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

This service will be available but the way it’s delivered may change, including mediation taking place either remotely by phone or web-based. Check with your provider for ways they can help during each COVID-19 Alert Level.

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Can public transport be used when children move between homes for parenting arrangements?

Yes, public transport can be used when children move between homes for parenting arrangements, if you follow public health guidance.

Guidance about the use of public transport is available on the Unite Against Covid-19 website:

For travel within the Alert Level 3 area:

Travelling on public transport at Alert Level 3(external link)

For travel within an Alert Level 2 area:

Travelling on public transport at Alert level 2(external link)

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