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COVID-19 and care arrangements

COVID-19 and care arrangements

COVID-19 and care arrangements

Wednesday 18 August, 2021

We are back in an Alert Level 4 lockdown!  Separated families are again considering how that will affect their shared care and contact arrangements.

Under the current COVID-19 Order, there is an exemption to the ‘stay-at-home’ requirement, that allows parents and caregivers to leave home to facilitate children’s care and contact arrangements in certain circumstances.

A child may go between two households, if there is a shared bubble arrangement in place. A shared bubble arrangement is an agreement between all persons over the age of 18 in each residence that they will isolate as one bubble. A shared bubble arrangement can only occur in a maximum of two residences. Each residence needs to be within the same or an adjacent territorial authority (click here to see a map). That means that where there are multiple blended families (a new partner’s children moving between households) this is unlikely to fit the exemption and will need careful consideration.

If you have a parenting order or agreement, you will need to review and discuss it with the other parent or caregiver to see if you can form a shared bubble arrangement.

If a shared bubble arrangement can occur and is agreed, then it should occur as safely as possible. For example, change-over could occur between each residence rather than in a public location to minimise potential exposure. If a shared bubble arrangement is not possible or is not agreed, then alternative contact arrangements should be discussed. Skype or telephone contact could occur, and the parent or caregiver who missed out could have their care or contact after the lockdown finishes.

We suggest that the overriding consideration for caregivers and parents when negotiating and reviewing care and contact arrangements is the safety of their children, and in a wider sense, our communities. The extent of the highly transmissible delta outbreak remains undetermined, meaning that particular care should be taken in deciding whether care or physical contact should occur, especially in the Auckland or Coromandel regions. Parents and caregivers should also ensure to involve the children’s guardians in any discussion about a shared bubble arrangement, as legally, they also have a say as to whether it can occur.

If an urgent matter arises in relation to your child or children during the lockdown, then applications can still be made to the Family Court. The Family Court continues to operate through all alert levels, but on a reduced capacity, dealing only with urgent applications through the online e-duty platform. Any other hearings and conferences scheduled during the lockdown will be adjourned to a later date.

Our family disputes team lawyers are here to assist you with any disagreements that may arise in co-parenting relationships.  We also work with clients on dissolution (divorce), protection orders, division of relationship property, contracting out agreements (pre-nups), estate issues and trust matters.  It is business as usual for Tompkins Wake and we are now working remotely. We can provide advice via email, phone, Microsoft Teams, and Skype.