Divorced and separated parents who share custody of their children are being urged to discuss their plans for Christmas with each other well in advance to minimise the risk of spreading Coronavirus.
Family lawyer Rupinder Nandra says that children with separated parents are still allowed to move between their two households – both in the run-up to and during the five-day Christmas bubbles permitted by law.
However, Ms Nandra, a senior associate at Shropshire law firm mfg Solicitors, said the unique exemptions that apply to children whose parents do not live together require careful planning and discussion.
She said: “There has been confusion in recent weeks but a Christmas bubble, permitted between 23 and 27 December, can consist only of three households. That doesn’t apply to under-18s with divorced or separated parents, who are allowed to be in both parents’ bubbles. Nobody else is allowed to be in two bubbles.
“That element of the rule brings with it an increased risk of contracting or transmitting Covid-19, as children of separated parents may potentially interact with up to six different households.
“It is therefore up to individuals to decide whether or not they want to form a Christmas bubble at all, but one of the biggest risks from Covid-19 over the festive season falls on those families where the parents live apart – and they must discuss and plan so they can minimise that if they decide the children should spend time with both of them.”
Ms Nandra said parents needed to weigh up the risks to their children, themselves and any other relatives, particularly if they are in any of the vulnerable groups for whom Covid-19 poses a big danger.
“The government guidance makes clear that where parents don’t live in the same household, their children under 18 can be moved between their homes,” she said.
“However, that doesn’t mean they must move. It’s up to parents to decide between themselves whether or not they do this. And it’s vital those discussions take place now, with time to plan for the festive season.”
Ms Nandra said that where it is not possible to come to an agreement parents should seek legal advice and explore the possibility of mediation while there is still time.