A formula for managing Covid and Children Contact at Christmas
By Jones Myers Solicitor, Lisa Russell
Following a year like no other, many separated parents have extra concerns and questions about the arrangements for their children during the festive period due to the Government’s Covid-19 restrictions.
In what can in normal circumstances be a difficult and emotional time of year, separated parents are also having to navigate further rules – which are constantly changing – and which will influence how families can spend time together during the holiday period.
Following a change in restrictions on 19th December 2020, those living in the new four areas in England can now only celebrate Christmas with members of their own household and support bubble. They cannot travel to other tiers to spend time with family and friends.
For people in tiers 1,2 and 3, a Christmas bubble can continue to be formed. However, this is now restricted to allow up to three households to meet on Christmas Day only. Christmas bubbles are no longer permitted between 23rd and 27th December. Family and friends in Tier 4 cannot be included in the Christmas bubbles of those living in the lower tiers.
It is recommended that everyone stays local and avoid travelling from a lower to a higher prevalence area. Importantly overnight stays are prohibited and therefore this in Christmas bubbles can spend time with each other during the day only.
If you are in an existing support bubble with someone who lives in a Tier 4 area, you can see each other on Christmas Day. If you choose to do so, you must not join a Christmas bubble with anyone else.
As with the earlier lockdown, children under the age of 18 can move between the homes of separated parents and their respective “Christmas Bubbles”. Nobody else should be in two bubbles.
If one or both parents live in a Tier 4 area, children may continue to move between their parents’ houses, but neither household is permitted to join a Christmas bubble with others.
Here are our tips for managing your arrangements:
- Plan Now – the earlier communications begin the better. Discussing the arrangements for Christmas early will allow time for consideration of each other’s expectations and plans and, importantly, compromise if there is no immediate agreement.
- Remain Child-Focused – Like all children, mine have also experienced an extremely unusual and unsettling year. Unable to attend their normal nursery, school, alternative child care provision and extracurricular activities; they have also been prevented from socialising with peers, family members and enjoying the freedoms and experiences which childhood should bring. Most children will no doubt have experienced confusion, worry and anxiety at one time or another during this pandemic. Listen to your children’s views. It is important to remember that Christmas celebrations do not have to take place on Christmas Day to be special and exciting for our children. The magic of Christmas can happen twice! Now, more than ever, your children need to feel secure and loved and not bear responsibility for choosing between their parents and, in turn, their wider families.
- Keep up to Date with & Remember the Rules – Depending upon which tier you live in, there is now just Christmas day when your children may have an opportunity to see their wider families which could include siblings, cousins, grandparents and other extended family members. It is therefore important to think flexibly and acknowledge that arrangements which worked previously may not this year for a number of reasons. They include how the ‘normal’ division of time may not allow for both parents to spend time with the children during this one-day window taking into account the new tier system. For families where a separated parent wishes to travel abroad with children there are additional considerations. With travel restrictions changing daily, consult Government travel guidelines and be aware that the parent will need to ensure that all Covid-19 rules and precautions are followed including the need for quarantine and regarding any risk factors at the intended destination. The consent of the other parent who has Parental Responsibility must be obtained. If it is not given an Order from the Court granting permission to travel with the children is required. Bear in mind the Court system is currently under considerable pressure and it may not be possible for an immediate hearing – therefore the earlier the agreement or disagreement is established the better.
- Have a Plan B – agree a contingency plan to avoid anxiety and disagreement at the last minute if original plans are not possible.
- Seek Legal Advice – if you require legal advice in respect of the arrangements for your children during the festive period or otherwise please do not hesitate to get in touch. We offer 30 minute free consultations by telephone or video call.