A mother who is self-isolating at home with her daughter is sparring with her ex-husband over co-parenting arrangements during the lockdown.

The woman said she spent half an hour on the 0800 779997 helpline trying to clarify what the protocol was for co-parenting- a day before the nationwide lockdown begins.

"My ex-husband has my daughter every second Friday but since the lockdown starts tomorrow at midnight she should be with me but it's not spelled out. Some of my friends are doing a week here and a week there but it's too risky. There will be a lot of people in this situation but the coronavirus helplines couldn't tell me," the mother said.

The mother's 8-year-old daughter has a sibling aged 2, who lives half an hour away.


"My ex-husband wants our daughter to see her younger sibling which I get- but it's better if we keep our kids at home. If I can't see my parents who literally live around the corner I don't think children should be passed on from house to house, it's too risky," she said.


The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said parents with shared custody of children were able to move between two homes as long as they are in the same community.

But there is no clarity of the "same community."

If a child spends time with a parent in Auckland and a parent in Christchurch, it is likely that travel restrictions will see that child spending the lockdown period with one of the parents.

This is to minimise the risk of Covid-19 spread.

However, if both parents live in the same city or town, then care arrangements should be able to continue as normal.

"What we are trying to do is prevent people gathering and ensure we are breaking those opportunities for transmission," Bloomfield said.

However, co-parenting lines are not clear for some when we go into lockdown from midnight tomorrow.

Family court barrister Jeremy Sutton, said families shouldn't "breach level 4."

"Lockdown means lockdown,'" he said.


"Parents need to 'pull together' and work out caring arrangements in a calm way.

"This is a public health issue and we are trying to preserve lives and it's hopefully a short-term inconvenience. I have told clients to support their children and focus on what's best for them which is not to get this virus. Stay in contact by way of Skype, Zoom, a phone call or text. That is a practical way to spend time with families and not have any risks, he said."

Sutton said it was crucial families kept up to speed with current information from the Government and health officials.

"The likelihood is there will be some more clarity around this but essentially there is a conflict between what we call parents rights and the best interests of the child. A parent might have a court order to say they have the child every second week or over the holidays but this has to be trumped by this extreme situation. We are saying to parents,' don't scrap this is really hard already, don't make it even harder - it's a life or death situation, so calm down."

The woman who is a primary school teacher is now homeschooling her daughter. The mother has mapped out a daily programme which is based around the school curriculum. She plays musical instruments and has regular physical exercise including trampoline and cycling.

Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Sarah Stuart-Black, outlines the powers that will be given to officials with the state of National Emergency declared. Video / Mark Mitchell

"This is the 'new normal' but we do live in the age of technology. I have set my daughter with 'messenger' on her phone so she can video chat with her sibling. They can Skype, and she can email as well. It's much safer this way. "

The teacher believes the lockdown period is a good time to teach children life skills like cooking and cleaning.

"I've taught her how to do her own washing and how to boil water on a stove so she can make her own pasta- all supervised by me of course. I've been predicting it for a while that schools will close, so I have set up my daughter the best I can with all the devices I have- so she has everything she needs. It's tough times for everyone but our children are our priority."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website