Hannah Smith, a Solicitor in our Family Department, considers the Government Guidance on the mixing of households and contact arrangements for children and their parents over the upcoming festive period…
‘Christmas is often a time of year spent celebrating with loved ones and family. For children with separated parents this can mean splitting the festive period between their parents’ homes, and those of extended family members. With the latest guidance on Christmas Bubbles and the National Tier System what does this mean for the child of separated parents?
Throughout this year, guidance has been issued by the Government in relation to the mixing of households including children spending time with their non-resident parent. The President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales noted that Government Guidance issued alongside the Stay at Home Rules in March 2020 did not prevent children from moving between separated parents’ homes.
This was an exception to the mandatory stay at home requirement but did not mean children must move between homes. The decision on the movement of a child for contact lay with the parents after an assessment of the child’s health, risk of infection, and presence of any vulnerable individuals in either household. This has continued throughout both National Lockdowns and also within the Tier System, including the new Tier System which commenced on 2nd December 2020.
On 29th November 2020, the Government published guidance for the Christmas Period, including information on the “Christmas Bubble”. A Christmas Bubble allows for members of up to three households to spend time together in private homes, attend places of worship together or meet in a public outdoor space. If you do form a Christmas Bubble the guidance reads that “you should not meet socially with friends and family that you do not live with in your home and garden unless they are part of your Christmas Bubble”. The Christmas Bubbles can be in effect from 23rd December 2020 until 27th December 2020, after which the area in which you live reverts to the National Tier System.
So, what does this mean for a child under the age of 18 who usually spends time with both parents over the festive period?
The good news is that anyone under the age of 18 with separated parents can be part of two Christmas Bubbles. This is the bubble of each parent, meaning that separated parents do not have to form a Christmas Bubble with each other. This also allows for a child to continue to move between their parents’ homes as they have done throughout this year, minimising the impact of the restrictions on their relationship with both parents and allowing for a routine to be maintained.’
If you are the parent of a child and are worried about how Covid-19 restrictions will impact on you spending time with your child over Christmas or have no arrangement in place and wish to seek advice contact our family law specialists today.