Shared custody and childcare

Guidance for parents, carers and whānau on shared parenting arrangements, childcare and using childcare providers at different Alert Levels.

Latest update — 28 September 2021

The Government has announced changes to the permitted personal reasons for crossing the Alert Level boundary.

From 11:59pm on 28 September 2021, tamariki (children) can travel between an Alert Level 3 and Alert Level 2 area for shared parenting arrangements. 

Everyone aged 12 and over must have evidence of a COVID-19 test in the past 7 days.  If tamariki (children) are travelling for a shared parenting arrangement, they do not need proof of travel.

Shared custody and childcare at Alert Level 1

At Alert Level 1, shared parenting arrangements can continue as normal.

You can also use childcare services, get a babysitter or nanny to come into your home, or take your tamariki (children) to a friend or family member's home so they can be looked after.

If anyone is unwell, including you, your child or the babysitter, they should stay home and call their doctor or Healthline for advice.

Shared custody and childcare at Alert Level 2

At Alert Level 2, shared parenting arrangements can continue. Tamariki (children) can travel within an Alert Level 2 region, and between an Alert Level 2 and Alert Level 3 area under a shared care arrangement.

Everyone aged 12 and over must have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result within the 7 days before travel. If tamariki (children) are travelling for a shared parenting arrangement, they do not need proof of travel.

If you or your child are unwell or have been asked to self-isolate, please stay home. 

Travel between an Alert Level 3 and Alert Level 2 region

You can continue to use home-based childcare services such as babysitters or nannies and provide informal childcare, for example looking after a grandchild.

Friends and whānau do not need to physically distance at home, and you can connect with people outside of your household.

Schools, kura and early learning services are open.

Legal advice and Family Court

Lawyers can continue to provide legal advice during Alert Level 2.

Legal aid services will still be available. You can find a list of legal aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website. You must wear a face covering when accessing a court, tribunal or justice facility. 

Find a legal aid lawyer (external link)

If you are on a benefit or have a low income, you may be eligible for help from a Community Law Centre. Community law centres are free, and there are clinics all around the country.

Find a community law clinic near you (external link)

If you have a dispute on shared parenting, the Family Court may be able to help you.

Information about Family Court services under Alert Level 2 (external link)

If you were doing Family Dispute Resolution check with your provider. These services will be available under Alert Level 2 but the way they are delivered may change, including doing some of the programme by phone or online.

You can call 0800 268 787 if you need other information about Family Court.

Shared custody and childcare at Alert Level 3

At Alert Level 3, tamariki (children) can travel between their parents' or caregiver's homes under a shared custody arrangement. This includes travel in and out of an Alert Level 2 area.

Everyone aged 12 and over must have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result within the 7 days before travel. If tamariki (children) are travelling for a shared parenting arrangement, they do not need proof of travel.

Use private vehicles where possible. You can use public transport if there is no other option.

Do not travel if you or your child are unwell.

Travel between an Alert Level 3 and Alert Level 2 region

Childcare at Alert Level 3

At Alert Level 3, some early learning centres and schools can open to provide childcare for tamariki whose parents or caregivers need to go into work. These will be open at a reduced capacity for up to Year 10, for parents and caregivers who do not have other childcare options.

Education at Alert Level 3

You can also extend your household bubble to include a carer for your children. The carer can leave their home to provide childcare for your children. They cannot join another household bubble.

Household bubbles at Alert Level 3

Expanding your bubble with a carer from an Alert Level 2 area

If you need to go to work and you have no other available options for childcare, you can apply for an exemption to bring in a carer from an Alert Level 2 region.

Exemptions are only granted on a case-by-case basis and are not guaranteed. You can apply through the Ministry of Health.

Apply for an exemption(external link) (external link)

Shared custody and childcare at Alert Level 4

During Alert Level 4, tamariki (children) whose parents or caregivers have a:

  • shared care arrangement or,
  • a court order under the Care of Children Act 2004 saying who has the day to day care of a child at specified times can continue to go between 2 homes to form a shared bubble.

Your shared bubble can include 2 households at most, and the other household must be in the same or adjacent district.

If you need to travel within an Alert Level 4 area for parenting purposes, we recommend you carry a copy your parenting agreement, for example a Court Order and proof of address as evidence of your travel. 

There are some simple things you can do to keep you and your tamariki (children) safe. 

  • Stay 2 metres away when meeting parents or caregivers from the other household.   
  • Tamariki (children) should stay in one home if they are feeling unwell, or if someone in their home is unwell.
  • Wear a face covering if you use public transport or a ride-share service to travel to the other parent or caregiver's home. 

Childcare arrangements between an Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 2 area

Tamariki (children) cannot travel between an Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 2 area for shared parenting arrangements. 

If your tamariki (children) cannot have face-to-face contact with their other parent, try to maintain regular contact virtually — for example, by WhatsApp or FaceTime.

Guidance for managing shared parenting at Alert Level 4 | justice.govt.nz (external link)

Permitted travel between an Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 2 region

Childcare services for Alert Level 4 workers

If you are working for an Alert Level 4 business or service and you have no available options for childcare, you can extend your household bubble to include a carer for your children. 

The carer can leave their home to provide childcare for your children. 

The carer cannot join another household bubble.

Household bubbles at Alert Level 4

If you do not have available childcare

Alert Level 4 workers who have children aged up to 13 years old can access free care, so they are able to continue to provide the services we need at Alert Level 4.

The scheme is for workers in Alert Level 4 businesses and services, and other exempted services such as fire and emergency and border workers.

You can get free childcare if you do not have childcare in place — you are expected to use your own private arrangements where possible.

Access a childcare provider for Alert Level 4 workers | education.govt.nz (external link)

Keeping tamariki (children) safe

The COVID-19 pandemic can be a tough time for our tamariki (children). If you stay informed, it will be easier for you to reassure your tamariki and provide accurate information when they ask questions. Health Navigator has resources for parents to support children through COVID-19. 

Caring for kids | healthnavigator.org.nz (external link) 

If you are worried about your child's safety

If you or your child are worried for your safety due to violence or abuse, you have the right to ask for help.

If you are in immediate danger call 111.

If you know a child who has been separated from their parents or caregivers, contact Oranga Tamariki.

Call 0508 326 459, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Other free helplines you can call

Keeping tamariki safe online 

During the pandemic we’re spending more time online. Netsafe has more information on how to keep your tamariki and rangatahi (young people) safe online, including reporting any online incidents. 

Online safety | netsafe.org.nz (external link)

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