How to make Christmas 2020 child arrangements following your separation

To say 2020 has been an unusual year for parents is an understatement, and this Christmas is certain to be different in so many way. For newly-single parents who have divorced or separated during 2020, this first Christmas as a family apart could be additionally challenging. Managing Director Rita Gupta looks at the emotions and logistics involved in successful co-parenting during the festive season, and how planning in advance can help you enjoy the holidays without worry.

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only a month away. At last, we finally know what the Christmas COVID rules will be, enabling families to plan for the festive season.

At the time of writing,

“Up to three households will be allowed to stay together and form a 'Christmas bubble' from 23 to 27 December.

Travel restrictions across the four nations, and between tiers and levels, (will be) lifted to allow people to visit families in other parts of the UK.

Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December, but otherwise travel to and from bubbles should be done between the 23 and 27.

People will not be able to get together with others from more than two other households, and once a bubble is formed, it must not be changed or be extended further.”

The ability of children from divorced parents to move between homes still applies:

“Children of parents who live apart are allowed to be part of two separate Christmas bubbles. This means they can see both parents without being counted as part of another household.”

In addition, the Prime Minister said that:

“Everybody should make sure they follow guidance to minimise risk.”

You can find more details on the Christmas coronavirus restrictions at The BBC.


The new guidance and your family

Now we have this guidance, it is time for separated parents to plan their Christmas child arrangements for this five-day period. In addition, separated parents should also make arrangements for the rest of the school holidays, which will depend on the Tier level of restrictions applicable in their area before and after the Christmas five day period.

With a whole new level of emotions that may bubble to the surface for the first time too, Christmas child arrangements will definitely present newly-divorced parents with new challenges to be overcome.


What separated parents are concerned about at Christmas

The good news is, if you find all this a little daunting, you are not alone. Most newly-single parents share three main concerns:

  1. Who will the children spend Christmas Day with?
  2. How much can I afford to spend on Christmas?
  3. I really want to be there when the kids open their presents

As a separated parent, it’s important to take time to consider what you feel about all these three points and which are your priorities. Depending on the Tier restrictions in your area after lockdown ends, and the bubble limit of three households during the 5-day ‘Christmas bubble’ period you may need to think about:

  • Safety and logistics of travel from one Tier to another
  • Number of people/households in your home at one time
  • Priorities in terms of who you want to visit and when
  • Availability of local testing, just in case
  • Possibility that one parent or one child may need to self-isolate

The key is to lay out your plans now that cover most eventualities, so you can be flexible if required.


Who gets the kids? Christmas Day arrangements

Most resident parents want their children to spend Christmas Day at their home - and the absent parent wants exactly the same thing too. As a newly-separated parent, you may be deciding between two options:

  • Alternating who has the children on the day itself, one year with their resident parent, the next year with their absent parent
  • Sharing the day, each having the children for half the day

Whilst for some, sharing the day works out just fine, for other recently separated couple the ‘this year, next year’ option is the better of the two. Many single parents simply do not want to see their ex-partner on Christmas Day itself, as it can raise so many unwanted emotions.


Can I afford Christmas?

Or more often, can I afford to spend as much as my ex probably will? This is an issues that many separated parents worry about, especially if they don’t earn as much as their ex-partner. The current economic climate may also have adversely affected one parent more than the other. Purchasing a joint present given from both of you is both budget-friendly and a positive display of co-parenting that sets the trend moving forward. A modest budget for stocking gifts and treats can also prevent costs spiraling out of control, or devaluing the joint gift.


I want to see them open their presents

If there is one silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that we are all so much more comfortable with video calls. So, make the most of this, and share in those magical paper-ripping moments via a pre-arranged video call. Make sure this includes all the family including grandparents and extended family. With video calls, there are no worries over the number of people physically allowed in one home, and you can open your presents from the kids on the same call too.


How to make your Christmas child arrangements

Making and agreeing Christmas child arrangements doesn’t need to involve endless phone calls, text messages, and email ping pong. This communication overload can be emotionally draining and with so many different messaging formats, lead to potential misunderstanding.

Much simpler to create a Christmas child arrangement letter, which sets down in writing what the arrangements are. Created with the help of a family lawyer such as ourselves, this letter simply pins down the details so you both know what’s happening when and where. Both of you can then agree to it, saving time and stress.


Make time for yourself

Remember, your first separated Christmas is not all about the children. This year, make space in your diary to enjoy the things you love about the season. Meet up with friends either virtually or in person as allowed, take a couple of days away, or just relax at home in peace and quiet. Start new traditions for yourself and your children for future Christmases when COVID-19 will have become a distant memory.

Contact LGFL to create and finalise your Christmas child arrangement letter: