A Covid Christmas – how to survive as a separated family

Two weeks ago the government set out its plans for what a Covid Christmas will look like.

Christmas is already a difficult time of year for many. Even under “normal” circumstances, the intensity of the festivities – with overspending on presents and too much time spent with the in-laws causing disagreements – can place a great deal of strain on family dynamics. With the difficulties caused by the pandemic over the course of this year, navigating the various Covid rules and exemptions (including over who is in whose ‘bubble’) is proving challenging for everyone, and this is no more true than for parents and children of separated families. As such co-operation between co-parents is essential, now more than ever. Unfortunately, that might be easier said than done for those parents who are already or have been locked in conflict.

How will Covid restrictions affect the arrangements?

New rules will come into place on Wednesday 2 December and which tier you live in will dictate what you can and cannot do. However, as under the previous sets of rules, there is an exemption from the gathering limits across all tiers where children do not live in the same household as both of their parents or guardians. This means that the child arrangements that you have in place should continue as normal.

Where your child is self-isolating in accordance with government guidance and must not leave their home, there is no exception to the regulations to allow for that child to visit their other parent. In these cases, it may be appropriate for the child arrangements to be paused pending the end of the self-isolation period. During this time you may wish to facilitate alternative indirect contact arrangements to enable the child to continue to have ongoing contact with their other parent. It is also very important that parents communicate with one another about the situation in order to avoid any unnecessary flaring of tensions.

What about the Christmas-specific rules?

There are special rules in place between 23 and 27 December to allow for families to come together over the festive period. The social contact restrictions will be relaxed so that people can form exclusive ‘Christmas bubbles’ composed of people from no more than three households. Again, there is an exemption for separated families so that children who are under the age of 18 and whose parents do not live together may be part of both of their parents’ Christmas bubbles. This allows the children of separated families to travel between two households over the Christmas period.

There are also other exemptions for those people who are in a support bubble or a childcare bubble and the rules are set out in full on the gov.uk website

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