2 December 2020

Children during the Christmas holidays. The rules for separated parents in light of coronavirus.

Christmas time can often be filled with tension for many parents as both wish to spend Christmas day with their loved ones and children. Such tension is often caused by the fact that separated parents may live in different cities and the extended family may live elsewhere. This year, things appear to be even more stressful due to the current pandemic and restrictions in place. This article aims at clarifying certain points, with the aim of assisting parents and preventing them from having disputes arise between them.

The right to be with your children at Christmas.

There isn’t an automatic right for a parent to spend Christmas with their children. You either have to agree this with your former partner or you may have a Court Order that dictates how the holidays are to be shared.

A study of separated parents carried out in 2014 found that 23% of separated couples spend Christmas Day together, 28% alternate it each year, and 15% of parents allow children to spend the day with their primary caregiver. It also showed that 14% of parents let the children decide and 11% of children have ‘two Christmas Days’, one with each parent. It is therefore up to the parents to decide and agree what works best for them, but most importantly, for the children.

Traveling at Christmas to meet relatives.

Non-essential travel is generally discouraged, but there is currently, at the time of writing, no travel ban in place. The only travel restrictions in effect are between Wales and any other areas of the UK that have high levels of coronavirus.

Children moving between parents’ homes.

The reasons for which you would be allowed to leave your house are listed in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.4) Regulations 2020. These include:

“for the purposes of arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and a child where the child does not live in the same household as their parents or one of their parents”.

It is therefore clear that children are allowed to move between the homes of separated parents, even if these are in different cities or towns.

Child arrangements during coronavirus.

A child arrangements order in place regulates where a child lives and contact with each parent. It may be difficult at times to adhere to the terms of the Order given the current restrictions, so the President of the Family Division of the High Court issued guidance for parents (as previously set out in our blog of the 14th July 2020 at Family Law Series Part 4 – COVID-19 and its effects on children matters – Howell Jones (howell-jones.com)). The guidance sets out that parents are free to decide whether any arrangements set out in the Order should be changed on a temporary basis. It is essential that parents do so only if they are both in agreement.

If you or your families need any help or advice on this or any other family-related matter, please contact our experienced divorce law solicitors

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