Guidance for managing shared parenting during COVID-19 traffic light settings

UPDATE 17 December 2021: At 11:59pm on 2 December Aotearoa moved to the traffic light setting.  

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)

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.

A map of current traffic light settings can be found here:

COVID-19 website traffic lights map(external link).

Please check the Government COVID-19 website(external link) for detailed information on what your region's settings mean for you.

This guidance explains the rules for parenting arrangements:

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.

Parenting arrangements at Red, Orange and Green settings

You should continue with your usual parenting arrangements, although there are some specific rules you need to follow when travelling across the Auckland boundary.

You should follow public health advice if you or your child has COVID-19 symptoms.(external link)

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Travel for parenting arrangements between setting areas but not across the Auckland boundary

From 15 December 2021, unless you are crossing the Auckland boundary, you and your child can travel anywhere in New Zealand at any setting. Other than Auckland, there is no requirement for evidence of vaccination status or testing required to travel between different traffic light areas.

You and your child must follow the setting rules that apply to the setting area you are in.

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Travel for parenting arrangements across the Auckland boundary between 15 December 2021 and 17 January 2022

You can travel out of or into Auckland area for any reason, but if you are aged 12 or over and leaving Auckland:

  • You must be fully vaccinated and have your My Vaccine Pass with you, or
  • You must carry evidence of a negative COVID-19 test administered no more than 72 hours before crossing the boundary.

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

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

  • the text message that is sent to you confirming your test result, 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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Travel for parenting arrangements across the Auckland boundary between 15 December 2021 and 17 January 2022 without stopping in Auckland (going between Northland and Waikato)

You can travel into, through and out of Auckland if necessary to get to where you are going. You should travel directly between homes in one trip. You should not stop in the Auckland area unless it’s essential to stop, for example for an emergency.

You will need to carry evidence of where you are going and the purpose of your travel.  It may be helpful if you also carry evidence of where you started your journey, so you can show that it was outside of Auckland.

You do not need your My Vaccine Pass or evidence of a negative COVID-19 test if you are transiting through Auckland without stopping.

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Auckland from 18 January 2022

From 18 January 2022, there will be no restrictions on travel into or out of Auckland.

When travelling into a different setting area, you will need to follow the guidance for that area when you are there.

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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 across the Auckland boundary 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.

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

Testing or vaccine pass required to access some forms of transport

You will not need a vaccine pass or negative Covid-19 test to access buses, trains and commuter ferries, unless you are using these to leave the Auckland area between 15 December and 17 January.

The Cook Strait ferry transport providers and some domestic air transport services, such as Air New Zealand, may require you to show a vaccine pass or negative COVID-19 test result, taken within 72 hours before your journey, before boarding if you are aged 12 or above. We recommend you check with the transport operator before your journey. Information about getting a COVID-19 test is available on the COVID-19 website.(external link)

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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 your test result, 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 traffic light settings 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 traffic light setting. 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 traffic light settings. 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 traffic light settings 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 with mediation taking place both in person and remotely by phone or web-based. Check with your provider for ways they can help during each COVID-traffic light setting

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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 Red settings:

Travelling at Red(external link)

For travel within Orange settings:

Travelling at Orange(external link)

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