Shared custody and childcare

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

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 if both the homes are in an Alert Level 1 or 2 area. You cannot have a shared care arrangement if the other home is in an Alert Level 4 area. 

If your child's other parent or caregiver lives in an Alert Level 4 area, and they cannot see their family or whānau group in person, we encourage you to connect with them virtually– for example by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels.

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.

Travelling for parenting purposes

If you and your child's other parent live in separate homes but take turns to look after your children (tamariki), you can continue to do this if both the homes are in an Alert Level 2 area.

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

If you need to cross the Alert Level boundary — for example you need to travel through Auckland to take your tamariki (children) to and from a shared caregiver’s home, you can do this, as long as you do it in 1 trip and you do not stop.  

Your place of departure or destination cannot be in the Alert Level 4 area, and it must be necessary to travel through the Alert Level 4 area for this purpose.

You must not stop, so far as reasonably practicable, on your journey. You can stop in an emergency, to use a toilet or get petrol, but you must follow Alert Level 4 guidance.

Travel between an Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 2 region

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 home under a shared custody arrangement. 

Only travel if you need to. We recommend keeping a copy of your court order or parenting arrangement with you to help explain your travel.

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

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

Do not travel if you or your child are unwell.

Guidance for managing shared parenting during COVID-19 | justice.govt.nz (external link)

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.

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 child's other parent or caregiver lives in an Alert Level 2 region, we encourage you to connect with them virtually– for example by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels.

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.

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)

Make sure children are safe and cared for

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

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 111.

You can also call the Family Violence information line for self-help information or to be connected to services where appropriate. 

0800 456 450

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

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