Contact with children at Christmas with the challenge of COVID

Category: Children, Divorce, Family

Christmas can be a difficult time for separated parents. Especially with contact in mind.

Child contact at Christmas is something that’s full of emotion and expectation. The thought of sharing your child with someone else can be a little too much for some parents to bear. However, the Court has a very straightforward approach to such matters.

This is about what’s best for children

Contact is about what is best for the child, not the adults. In the majority of cases, a Court will conclude that children deserve the opportunity to spend time with all of the important people in their family. And so the key days over Christmas are often shared and / or alternated.

Families are inclined to create their own ‘traditions’. But that doesn’t mean that a child of separated parents shouldn’t enjoy each of their children’s celebrations. Even if they’re different.  Children are immensely adaptable. And their future adult life will likely be enriched by memories of Christmas time ‘traditions’ with each parent. 

In terms of family relationships, it’s not always easy to reach agreement over Christmas arrangements. But with a genuine focus on reaching an arrangement that allows the child to spend quality time with both sides of his or her family, you are a long way towards finding the best outcome for your child.

contact with children at Christmas

How does COVID impact this?

COVID will undoubtedly add a layer of extra complication for some families. That’s particularly for those who are shielding or isolating over the Christmas period. Or where there’s a significant distance to travel, perhaps even from overseas. In those circumstances, the Court is clear that parents are expected to give effect to the spirit of a child focused arrangement or Court Order. That’s even if the Order or agreement itself cannot be followed to the letter.

There’s some good news for those families who don’t have the added complications of shielding or isolation. In this case, children moving between separated parents are a specific exception to any lockdown rules. This demonstrates just how important the Government consider the continuation of a child’s family relationships are. Children can even join a parent arriving from overseas in quarantine. But that parent can’t leave the quarantine venue with the child. For anyone thinking of this as a solution, it’s going to need a lot of organisation (especially food and activities).

Additional challenges

Children don’t count as a ‘bubble’ in their own right. They actually become one of the family ‘bubble’ that they join. However, there may still be a lot of tough choices to make.  Undoubtedly there’ll be families who cannot go through with the agreed or Court ordered plans because one or other of the households is isolating on the contact days themselves.  In those circumstances it’ll be extremely disappointing for all involved. This is particularly the case for the child. But other methods of communication should be utilised instead, and a flexible approach to alternate contact may be needed. One suggestion is to perhaps even organise a ‘second Christmas’ on a different day in these extraordinary times.

Try to take conflict out of it

Where possible, contact with children at Christmas should be organised well in advance and through respectful discussions.  If you experience difficulty in reaching an agreement, a mediation service or a Solicitor may be able to help. Especially a Solicitor who is a member of Resolution. They should be able to help you reach a child focused agreement that avoids the need for a Court application.

At Nash & Co, all of our lawyers are members of Resolution. We aim to help our clients to reach a resolution that’s child focused and fair all year, not just at Christmas.         

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How can we help?

Our Family Solicitors in Plymouth are here to help you. We have years of combined experience in helping families through tough decisions and situations. Please either give us a call – 01752 827030 or email us at [email protected]