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Managing Child Contact Arrangements This Christmas

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

The most recent government guidelines state that between 23rd and 27th December, an exclusive Christmas bubble, composed of no more than three households can be formed.

Children from separated families may be part of both parents’ Christmas bubbles, as restrictions don’t apply to child contact arrangements. Furthermore, kids are able to travel between tiers if parents live in areas with different tier levels.

With that in mind, here’s a list of five considerations for managing child contact arrangements this Christmas.

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1. Make Fair and Safe Arrangements 

If you can make arrangements for Christmas without legal interference, then it is advisable to do so. It is important to be civil and organise a Christmas schedule that’s fair to the child and the parents, which ensures the child’s safety if they are vulnerable. If such an agreement is not possible, then the court may become involved to ensure contact time at Christmas is fair to everyone. If parents do not comply, when there is no reasonable excuse or exception, then the non-resident parents have the right to seek enforcement action, so it is always best for parents to sort arrangements between themselves.

It’s important to note that if a child is self-isolating, they will not be allowed to move between households or form a Christmas support bubble. 

2. Don’t Argue

Following the separation of parents, children will already feel unsettled, and the pandemic could be adding more stress to an already confusing time. Christmas is a time for family, so for the sake of keeping a child happy and secure, it’s important to stay calm, cheerful and to keep arguments for another day.

3. Be Amicable

In terms of previous Christmas routines – it’s important to stick to what children will remember and what is traditional for them. If you used to have dinner at a certain time, open presents at a certain time or even in a certain order, play board games in the afternoon etc, then try and stick to these arrangements. It’s these traditions that keep the Christmas spirit alive. It’s what your children will remember and whatever arrangements are decided for Christmas, it’s important to know that structure is key.

4. Stick to Court Orders

If the post-divorce or separation situation means it’s not possible for arrangements to be made by yourself, then the court can get involved to ensure that Christmas arrangements are sorted. The court will seek to deal with matters in a constructive way and in the interest of the children. As this will involve a court order, the arrangements made will be legally enforceable. It’s important to do this as early as possible as there could be a backlog in cases, due to the pandemic.

5. Communicate With Family Virtually

With a limited number of households allowed in a support bubble, Christmas might feel different for children without the usual presence of certain family members. Make sure children can still have contact with extended family through virtual communication methods such as Facetime, Zoom or Skype, or via phone calls.

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