Christmas and COVID: Making child arrangements

On 24 November 2020, the Government announced the positive news that coronavirus restrictions would be relaxed over the Christmas period to allow people to spend Christmas with their friends and family. Everyone, irrespective of the Tier you are currently in, will be allowed form a “Christmas bubble” between 23 and 27 December. There are certain criteria within this rule that must be followed regarding the formation of your bubble, which can be found here, but a key point is that children of separated parents will be allowed to move between bubbles.

Over the course of this year, separated parents have faced the challenge of trying to agree arrangements for their children in the face of lockdowns, self-isolating, homeschooling, new tiers and increasingly complicated rules. The festive season can be stressful enough for separated parents to organise, let alone with the added impact of coronavirus. Parents may have different views as to who should be included in their bubbles, the extent to which mingling should occur (if at all), and how and when children should travel between bubbles.

In September, the family court stated that child arrangement disputes should only be brought to court where absolutely necessary. Therefore, you should agree child arrangements between yourself and your former spouse or partner unless it is absolutely impossible to do so.

With this in mind, we have prepared some advice as to how to best approach making arrangements for your children:

  1. Speak to your former partner sooner rather than later – now that we know the Christmas bubble rules, it would be sensible speak to your former partner to try and agree arrangements for 23-27 December as soon as possible. Of course, there may be changes to the rules before then, and therefore both parents should prepare to be flexible, but it is best to start trying to reach an agreement as soon as you can that works for both of you. It would be sensible to discuss who you envisage being in your respective Christmas bubbles (and whether any people within them are high risk), where the children will spend Christmas Day, and travel logistics.
  2. Put the children first – it is important that both parents act in the children’s best interests. Any agreement made should focus on your children’s needs and what is best for them, rather than what is best or easiest for the parents. If your children are old enough, you could ask them for their views and preferences. Once you have come to an agreement you could talk through it with your children, which will provide them with some stability and the reassurance of a routine.
  3. Keep to the agreement – once an agreement has been reached, this should not be changed unless absolutely necessary in order to provide stability for the children. However, particularly this year, it is important that both parents are prepared to be flexible. If the children are with a parent and a person within that bubble is required to self-isolate, for example, this will have an impact on whether the children can travel to see the other parent. Therefore, be prepared to keep communication open during the festive period, wherever possible, in case of last minute changes.

If you feel that you need help reaching an agreement on child arrangements this Christmas, please do contact us and we can speak through your circumstances with you.