Guidance for managing shared parenting during COVID-19 Alert Levels

UPDATE 20 October 2021The Auckland region and some areas of Waikato, including Hamilton City, are at COVID-19 Alert Level 3. The remainder of Aotearoa New Zealand is at COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

Need help? Family violence and sexual violence helplines are always open.

You can also find information and measures to stay safe and well on the NZ Government COVID-19 website(external link)

This guidance explains the rules for parenting arrangements where:

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.

Back to top

If your home is in an Alert Level 3 area and your child’s other family or whānau group is also in an Alert Level 3 area

Different rules apply to travel within the Auckland, Waikato, and Northland Alert Level 3 areas, and travel between those areas. Please refer to the relevant guidance below for the rules that apply to your circumstances.

Boundaries of the Auckland, Waikato and Northland Alert Level 3 areas(external link)

Travel within the same Alert Level 3 area

The following rules apply if your home and your child’s other family group or whānau are located in the same Alert Level 3 area.

Children may move between homes for parenting arrangements if the homes they move between are part of an ‘extended bubble arrangement’, and:

  • the homes your children move between are all in the Auckland Alert Level 3 area, or
  • the homes your children move between are all in the Waikato Alert Level 3 area, or
  • the homes your children move between are all in the Northland Alert Level 3 area.

An ‘extended bubble arrangement’ means an agreement by all of the residents of two or more homes within an Alert Level 3 area to behave as if they were one home for the purpose of keeping connections with family or whānau, enabling caregiving, or supporting persons living alone or otherwise isolated.

There is no restriction on the number of homes children may move between if the movement is consistent with the parenting arrangement and any ‘extended bubble arrangement’ you or the child’s other parents or caregivers are participating in. You are encouraged to keep any extended bubbles as small as possible.

Children moving between homes can only be accompanied by a person from the extended bubble. 

Only travel where you need to. When travelling within Alert Level 3 areas, we recommend you carry evidence of your parenting arrangements with you, if you have any. This will help explain your travel. Examples of evidence could include a copy of a court order if you have one, or another type of record of the arrangements you have made with the other shared caregiver.

You do not need a COVID-19 test before you travel. You should follow public health guidance. You can find information and steps to stay safe and well on the COVID-19 website(external link).

If your children can’t see their other family or whānau group in person, we encourage you to provide as much access as possible by other means – such as by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels. We encourage parents to be generous with phone or social media contact.

Travel between different Alert Level 3 areas

The following rules apply if your child’s family group or whānau have:

  • a home in the Auckland Alert Level 3 area and a home in the Waikato Alert Level 3 area, or
  • a home in the Auckland Alert Level 3 area and a home in the Northland Alert Level 3 area, or
  • a home in the Waikato Alert Level 3 area and a home in the Northland Alert Level 3 area.

Children may travel between different Alert Level 3 areas for parenting arrangements.

Children moving between Alert Level 3 areas can only be accompanied or collected by a person who lives at one of the homes that forms part of the shared parenting arrangement. If you are travelling with a child, you should travel directly between homes in one trip. You should not stop in the other Alert Level 3 areas except to drop off or collect the child, or if it’s essential to stop, for example for an emergency.

Evidence requirements when travelling between different Alert Level 3 areas

A person must carry evidence of their principal place of residence if they are returning home after travelling to a different Alert Level 3 area after:

  • accompanying a child to another caregiver’s home, or
  • collecting a child from another shared caregiver’s home.

This will help explain the travel.

Testing requirements when travelling from the Auckland to the Waikato or Northland Alert Level 3 areas

When travelling from the Auckland Alert Level 3 area into the Waikato or Northland Alert Level 3 area, a child who is aged 12 years old and over, and any person accompanying or collecting the child, must carry either:

  • evidence that they have had a COVID-19 test in the last seven days, or
  • a medical certificate confirming they do not have COVID-19 symptoms and, for a particular physical or other need, are unable to have a COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 tests are free. Testing is available at community testing sites or from a doctor.

You do not need a test to travel from the Waikato or Northland Alert Level 3 areas into the Auckland Alert Level 3 area.

Boundaries of the Auckland, Waikato and Northland Alert Level 3 areas(external link)

You should follow public health guidance. You can find information and steps to stay safe and well on the COVID-19 website(external link).

If your children can’t see their other family or whānau group in person, we encourage you to provide as much access as possible by other means – such as by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels. We encourage parents to be generous with phone or social media contact. 

Back to top

If your child’s family group or whānau has one home in an Alert Level 3 area and another home in an Alert Level 2 area

Children may move between homes that are in different Alert Level areas for parenting arrangements.

Children moving between Alert Level areas can only be accompanied or collected by a person who lives at one of the homes that forms part of the shared parenting arrangement. 

Testing, evidence, and other alert level requirements apply to travel between Alert Levels for parenting arrangements (including between the Auckland and Waikato or Northland Alert Level 3 areas), and these are outlined below.

Testing requirements when travelling out of the Auckland Alert Level 3 area

Testing requirements apply to travel  from the Auckland Alert Level 3 area into the Waikato Alert Level 3 area, the Northland Alert Level 3 area, or the Alert Level 2 area. A child who is aged 12 years old and over, and any person accompanying or collecting the child, must carry either:

  • evidence that they have had a COVID-19 test in the last seven days, or
  • a medical certificate confirming they do not have COVID-19 symptoms and, for a particular physical or other need, are unable to have a COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 tests are free. Testing is available at community testing sites or from a doctor.

You do not need a test to travel from the Alert Level 2 area into an Alert Level 3 area.

You do not need a test to travel from the Waikato or Northland Alert Level 3 areas into the Alert Level 2 area, or into the Auckland Alert Level 3 area.

Boundaries of the Auckland, Northland and Waikato Alert Level 3 areas(external link)

Evidence requirements when travelling between Alert Level areas

A person must carry evidence of their principal place of residence if they need to travel between Alert Level areas when returning home after:

  • accompanying a child to another caregiver’s home, or
  • collecting a child from another shared caregiver’s home.

This will help explain the travel.

Alert Level requirements when a child has travelled between areas

Children must comply with the Alert Level requirements of the area they are in. This means children who travel from an Alert Level 2 area into an Alert Level 3 area must then follow the Alert Level 3 rules while they are in the Alert Level 3 area.

Children who travel from an Alert Level 3 area into an Alert Level 2 area must then follow the Alert Level 2 rules while they are in the Alert Level 2 area.

You should follow public health guidance. You can find information and steps to stay safe and well on the COVID-19 website(external link).

If your children can’t see their other family or whānau group in person, we encourage you to provide as much access as possible by other means – such as by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels. We encourage parents to be generous with phone or social media contact.

Back to top

If your home is in an Alert Level 2 area and your child’s other family group or whānau is also in an Alert Level 2 area

Within an Alert Level 2 area, children may move between homes for parenting arrangements.

There is no restriction on the number of homes children may move between if the movement is consistent with the parenting arrangement. There is no requirement that the homes are in the same or neighbouring territorial authorities. You do not have to carry evidence of your parenting arrangements, unless you need to travel through an Alert Level 3 area.

If travel between the homes in Alert Level 2 areas means you have to travel through an Alert Level 3 area, this is allowed if you travel directly to collect or drop off children in one trip. You can only stop in the Alert Level 3 area if essential, for example for an emergency. If you are travelling through an Alert Level 3 area, you must carry evidence of your parenting arrangements and location of your destination (your place of residence or the location of the other home). This will help explain your travel. Examples of evidence of your parenting arrangements could include a copy of a court order if you have one, or another type of record of the arrangements you have made with the other shared caregiver.

You do not need a COVID-19 test before you travel. You should follow public health guidance. You can find information and steps to stay safe and well on the COVID-19 website(external link).

If your children can’t see their other family or whānau group in person, we encourage you to provide as much access as possible by other means – such as by phone, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other social media channels. We encourage parents to be generous with phone or social media contact.

Back to top

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 within and between Alert Level areas for parenting arrangements.

Back to top

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

You need a COVID-19 test when travelling for parenting arrangements if you are:

  • aged 12 or over; and
  • travelling out of the Auckland Alert Level 3 area into the Waikato Alert Level 3 area, into the Northland Alert Level 3 area, or into the Alert Level 2 area.

You must carry the following information for each person the test requirements apply to, either:

  • evidence that they have had a COVID-19 test in the last seven days, or
  • a medical certificate confirming they do not have COVID-19 symptoms and, for a particular physical or other need, are unable to have a COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 tests are free. Testing is available at community testing sites or from a doctor.

You do not need a test when:

  • travelling from the Waikato Alert Level 3 area into either the Auckland Alert Level 3 area or into the Alert Level 2 area, or
  • travelling from the Northland Alert Level 3 area into either the Auckland Alert Level 3 area or into the Alert Level 2 area, or
  • travelling between homes that are in the same Alert Level 3 area, or
  • travelling out of the Alert Level 2 area into an Alert Level 3 area, or
  • travelling between homes that are in the Alert Level 2 area.

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 completion of a test, 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.

Back to top

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 COVID-19 Alert Levels 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. 

Back to top

I need legal advice – how do I get it?

Lawyers can provide advice during each COVID-19 Alert Level. 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 restrictions. You can find their contact details on the Community Law website at:

Community Law: Our Law Centres(external link)

Back to top

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 Alert Levels 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.

Back to top

We were doing Family Dispute Resolution, will that keep happening?

This service will be available but the way it’s delivered may change, including mediation taking place either remotely by phone or web-based. Check with your provider for ways they can help during each COVID-19 Alert Level.

Back to top

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 an Alert Level 3 area:

Travelling on public transport at Alert Level 3(external link)

For travel within the Alert Level 2 area:

Travelling on public transport at Alert level 2(external link)

Back to top

← Back to the news

This page was last updated: