Children in shared care arrangements can still travel between their homes during the coronavirus lockdown, while the Principal Family Court Judge urges parents to "put aside their conflict".

Principal Family Court Judge Jacquelyn Moran said the overriding consideration is for parents to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children.

Several questions had been raised about children from families who have shared care or contact arrangements due to Family Court orders during the Covid-19 alert level 4 which begins at 11.59pm today.

In a statement last night, Judge Moran said the intent of the lockdown was to prevent the virus spreading further within New Zealand.


"Staying at home will save lives and is key to alert level 4," she said.

Where there is a shared care arrangement of children and the families are in different towns or communities, the safety of the children and others in their family units should not be compromised by movement between those homes, Judge Moran said.

This was particularly the case if there are more than two households involved, she added.

"Parents must put aside their conflict at this time and make decisions that are in the best interests of the child and their families and the wider community," Judge Moran said.

"This global pandemic should not be seen as an opportunity for parents to unilaterally change established care arrangements without cause or otherwise behave in a manner inconsistent with the child's best interests or the court ordered care arrangements."

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However, Judge Moran said, healthy children can continue to travel between their homes if in the same community.

If unwell, the child should not travel between homes until they have recovered completely.


Travel between parents should also cease if a person in either home is sick, someone involved has been overseas in the last 14 days, a person has been in close contact with someone who is currently being tested for Covid-19, or a person has been in close contact with someone who has the virus or is being tested.

"Parents and caregivers should discuss if shared custody arrangements would allow Covid-19 to potentially spread without them being aware and reach an agreement," Judge Moran said.

"This may mean the child may stay with one parent/caregiver for the initial four-week period."

If children are moving between homes, Judge Moran advised, they should always be accompanied by an adult.

"Private vehicles should be used, where possible. Public transport can be used where there are no alternatives.

"Where children cannot move between homes, the court would expect indirect contact - such as by phone or social media messaging - to be generous."

The Family Court will continue to operate through all pandemic alert levels but on a reduced capacity, dealing with priority proceedings.

Other courts will operate only in the priority areas, Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann said earlier this week.

Proceedings will not take place this week in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Employment Court, Environment Court (with the exception of one proceeding), Māori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal and Coroners Court.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said if Kiwis adhere to the level 4 lockdown - the highest alert - thousands of Kiwi lives will be saved.

Schools, childcare centres and universities will close, while all non-essential businesses or services must also shut by midnight.

New Zealanders are advised to stay at home unless visiting an essential service.

Today, a state of emergency for all of New Zealand has been declared in Parliament as the country's confirmed and probable number of coronavirus cases passed 200.

This will provide special powers to authorities, including powers of requisition, closing roads, and stopping people from doing certain activities.