By Jaime Broadmore.
We appreciate that lock-down can be a stressful time for many people and none more so than parents and caregivers who share the care of children with another parent or caregiver. Complying with lockdown rules, whilst also adhering to status quo care arrangements, may cause some parents and caregivers confusion and conflict. We are here to help.
The Principal Family Court Judge, Her Honour Judge Moran, released the following helpful guideline regarding the period of lockdown in March 2020. These guidelines continue to be relevant to the current 2021 national lockdown.
- The overriding consideration remains “best interests of the children”.
- The intent of Alert Level 4 is to prevent the spread of Covid-19 within New Zealand. Staying at home is the key to Alert Level 4.
- If there are two homes involved or if parents 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.
- Generally, children in the same communities can continue to go between their homes. This applies unless:
- The child is unwell. The child should not travel between homes until they are well.
- Someone in either home is unwell.
- Someone involved in the care of the child (child or people in the home they have been in or will go to) has been overseas in the last 14 days
- Someone has been in close contact with someone who is currently being tested for Covid-19
- Someone has been in close contact with someone who has Covid-19 or is being tested.
- Parents and caregivers should discuss if shared care arrangements would allow Covid-19 to potentially spread without them being aware and reach an agreement. This may mean the child may stay with one parent/caregiver for the initial 4-week lockdown period.
- It is important that if children are moving between homes that:
- Children should be accompanied by an adult;
- Private vehicles should be used where possible. Public transport can be used (but need to practice safe practices including social distancing).
- If moving home and physical care/contact cannot occur, then the Court would expect indirect contact. This includes by phone, Skype, Facetime etc. The Court advised that this indirect contact should be generous.
- Parents must put aside their conflict at this time and make decisions that are in the best interests and safety of the children, their families and the wider New Zealand community. Covid-19 should not be used or seen as an opportunity for separated parents to unilaterally change established care arrangements without good cause or otherwise behave in a manner inconsistent with the overriding principle/consideration of what is in the child’s best interests or Court Order care arrangements.
Judge Moran emphasised that children are precious and that, more than ever, this is a time to focus on their best interests and well-being, and in particular their safety.
The guideline is available on here https://www.districtcourts.govt.nz/media-information/media-releases/24-march-2020/
We continue to offer a range of legal services in all Covid-19 alert levels, from providing one-off legal advice though to filing urgent applications to the family court. No query is too big or too small.
If you believe that we can assist you, please do not hesitate to email us at [email protected] or to text message us on Ph 022 655 4621. We can arrange for one of our lawyers to call you to provide legal advice, or to further assist you regarding parenting or any Family Law matters.
The New Zealand Courts are “essential services” and will be opened during the Covid-19 lockdown. It is expected that there will be disruptions during this period as the Courts will put priority on matters involving liberty of the individual, personal safety and wellbeing, and matters in which resolution is time critical. The Courts will try to hear matters within these priority categories by remote participation, which may involve audio visual link (AVL), telephone and email.
Kia Kaha and stay safe!