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    8 December 2020

    Christmas Bubbles – what do the lockdown rules mean for Christmas childcare arrangements for separated parents?

    Christmas this year is going to look very different for most. Recently the Government announced that there would be an easing of the lockdown provisions over the 5 days of Christmas, from the 23rd to 27th December. During this festive period, anyone will be allowed to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ with up to two other households (three households in total). However, you can only be in one Christmas bubble and your Christmas bubble cannot change.

    In our recent article ‘Christmas is coming – Family Law: time to get organised before it is too late’ we looked at agreeing on childcare arrangements for Christmas and key points to remember. But how do the new guidelines affect current arrangements for parents that are separated and those that have childcare or support bubbles in place?

    There are specific rules relating to forming childcare and support bubbles. Existing support bubbles will count as one household in the three-household bubble limit. Therefore, you can add two other households to your bubble. This means that up to four households could be in your Christmas bubble if one of those households is in a support bubble. **Please note that the Government Christmas guidelines have been updated since the publication of this article (19th December 2020). For up to date advice, please see the Government guidelines on making a Christmas bubble with friends and family.

    Forming Christmas bubbles may seem complicated, below we have set out some examples to help you understand how the new festive rules will apply.

     

    1. If the child’s grandparent lives alone and you have formed a support bubble together you will count as one household for the purposes of the Christmas bubble, even though you do not live together. If you then have a brother and a sister who live in separate houses with their own families, your Christmas bubble can include the grandparent, your brother, and your sister together with anyone else in their house.

     

    1. Childcare bubbles apply to children under the age of 13 and can continue during the Christmas period but only where they are reasonably necessary for the purposes of childcare and there are no reasonable alternatives. You can still form a Christmas bubble with two other households unless you want to meet with the people in the childcare bubble socially, in which case they will form one of the households in your Christmas bubble.

     

    If you have formed a childcare bubble with a friend for example, this can continue for the purposes of childcare only. However, you cannot socialise with your friend unless you include them in your Christmas bubble. This would mean that potentially either your brother or your sister would be excluded from your Christmas bubble.

     

    1. Separated parents do not have to form one Christmas bubble. The other parent will not form part of the other’s Christmas bubble. This means that both parents can mix with two other households. If separated parents choose to form separate Christmas bubbles, their children under the age of 18 can be part of both bubbles. This will not affect either parents’ own bubbles and means children can enjoy contact with both parents. This could mean that children will have contact with six different households or eight if both parents’ Christmas bubbles includes a support bubble.

     

    Parents may need to be more flexible with their arrangements this year due to the restrictions. The Family Court has provided guidance to those with existing Court orders which set out how Christmas holidays should be shared, stating ‘that where the letter of a Court order cannot be followed, it should be followed in spirit’. It is important for both parents to communicate with one another.

    Decisions to form bubbles should consider everyone’s health, their vulnerability to the virus and risk of infection.  Of course, there is no requirement to be part of a Christmas bubble and any arrangements are subject to individual judgement.

    Fixed Fee Appointments

    Steeles Law Family Solicitors offer an initial fixed fee meeting for £100.00 plus VAT for up to an hour.  If you are experiencing any issues with an ex-partner over arrangements for contact with your children this Christmas, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.  Please call the team on 01603 598000 or email family@steeleslaw.co.uk to book your appointment.

    The Steeles Law Family Law team has been sharing practical tips, legal updates and industry insights related to the Family sector.  See the news page links below for more information:

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

     

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