COVID-19 and the Family Law

FAMILY COURT AND SHARED PARENTING ARRANGEMENTS DURING THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

IS THE FAMILY COURT STILL OPERATING DURING THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN?

The New Zealand Courts are considered to be an essential service, and accordingly the Family Court continues to operate during the lockdown period in a reduced capacity. The Court is currently progressing only priority matters which includes those that relate to personal liberty, personal safety and well-being and where an urgent resolution is critical. The Court is hearing priority matters remotely by using mechanisms such as audio visual link, telephone and email.

The Court will continue to process new without notice applications. An application can be made without notice if making the application on notice would result in a risk of serious injury or undue hardship or the risk to the personal safety of the applicant or the children. For example, a without notice application would include applications for a protection order, property orders and a parenting order in cases involving domestic violence.

DO I CONTINUE WITH A SHARED CARE PARENTING ARRANGEMENT UNDER A PARENTING ORDER DURING THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN?

The Principal Family Court Judge, Her Honour Judge Moran, has released guidelines on shared care and how this should be approached during the lockdown period.

In short, Her Honour has stated that:

  • The overriding consideration is for parents to make decisions that are in the best interests of their children, and decisions should promote the objective of avoiding the spread of COVID-19.

  • Where the parties live in the same communities, shared care arrangements should continue unless:

  • The child or someone in either of the homes is unwell; or

  • Someone involved (i.e. the child or people in the home they have been in or will go to) has been overseas in the last 14 days, OR has been in close contact with someone who is currently being tested for COVID-19 OR has been in close contact with someone who has the virus or is being tested.

  • If children are moving between homes, they should be accompanied by an adult, and private vehicles as opposed to public transport should be used where possible.

  • Where shared care arrangements cannot proceed, the Court expects indirect contact such as by phone, video or social media messaging to be generous.

HOW DO I EXPLAIN COVID-19 AND THE LOCKDOWN TO MY CHILDREN?

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner website contains some helpful resources: https://www.occ.org.nz/

Please also see the links below:

Helping kids with anxiety and to stay calm amidst COVID-19 COVID-19 and kids: How to talk to children about the coronavirus by Siouxsie Wiles Nanogirl and Moe from 'The Moe Show' talking about the national lockdown

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