Christmas restrictions set to cause conflict between exes over how children spend the holidays

25 Nov 2020 | Claire Andrews

Government plans to limit household mixing to three households over five days during the Christmas period will put a strain on separated families leaving many struggling to agree on child custody arrangements over the holidays, say lawyers.

With family courts dealing with massive backlogs and many separated parents already using pandemic restrictions as an excuse to change longstanding child custody arrangements, the short window of time allocated to seeing extended family is likely to cause further conflict.

Experts at London law firm Osbornes Law warn that those anticipating disagreements over how children spend the Christmas holidays should address them as soon as possible as they can take some time to resolve.

Claire Andrews, a divorce law solicitor at Osbornes Law, explains: “This year there are limited opportunities for extended families to spend Christmas together.  Within families, there will be differing views about how much risk to take and whether to meet with other households at all.

“Since the first lockdown began we have seen parents seeking to either reduce contact or prevent children from seeing their mother or father altogether, using coronavirus restrictions, or fears about spreading the virus as an excuse.

“The new Christmas regulations are likely to exacerbate this problem, with parents arguing over who has contact and when during the five-day window.”

Coronavirus regulations allow separated parents to maintain existing custody arrangements which should apply regardless, including over the Christmas period. Parents can make changes if both parties agree but neither should be using restrictions to get more time with their children.

Claire says, “Parents can of course agree to change their usual contact arrangements and many may want to do that so that children are able to see extended family over the Christmas period.  Now that we know what the new restrictions will be, I would advise separated parents to agree a plan as soon as possible.

“My experience of advising families since the pandemic began has shown that some parents have genuine safety concerns, perhaps because a family member is shielding, whilst others are using restrictions as a way of attempting to change agreed child contact arrangements.

“The best outcomes are where parents work hard to find arrangements that everyone is comfortable with and are in their children’s best interests. Unfortunately, there are those who are not open to compromise and are simply trying to take advantage. In cases like these legal action is necessary.”

Claire’s advice to those in dispute about child contact arrangements over Christmas and beyond are:

  • Tackle the issue as soon as possible as child contact matters can take time to resolve.
  • Attempt to agree on a plan between yourselves where possible.
  • If not, your solicitor can write to the other parent, asking for them to agree to child contact.
  • If this fails, virtual mediation is a good option and actually, it being virtual and not face to face can take the heat out of the situation.
  • If this still doesn’t resolve things you will need to apply to the family courts to deal with the child contact arrangements. If the matter concerns Christmas specifically the courts will attempt to list an urgent hearing before the 25th this is not guaranteed.
  • An alternative to going to court is children’s arbitration. This is where a third party makes a decision about the contact dispute. The arbitrator’s final determination will be a binding ruling. Though it can be costly, as you have to pay for the arbitrator, it is often far quicker than the court process and is less adversarial.

Claire explains, “The family courts are snowed under with the pandemic exacerbating existing backlogs in the system.  Where possible it’s best to avoid the courts as the process can be drawn out and costly.  Sometimes, however, parents will not have a choice – I have one client, a keyworker, who has been denied contact with his children since March due to his ex-partner’s supposed coronavirus concerns – so applying for a court order has been the only available mechanism to deal with the contact arrangements.”

If you would like to speak to a member of our family law team call 0207 584 8811 or visit our dedicated page about divorce.

Share this article


Contact us today

For a free initial conversation call 020 7485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you

    Related InsightsVIEW ALL

    1. 6.10.2022

      How to set aside an order in financial...

      My ex-spouse didn’t tell the truth about their finances when we divorced, can anything be done? Can the financial...

      Read more
    2. 30.8.2022

      What are the rules on pension sharing?

      Pensions are one of the biggest assets of a marriage, yet many people are uncertain about whether they are entitled...

      Read more
    3. 30.8.2022

      What is a transfer of equity?

      Transfer of equity in divorce Transfer of equity refers to the process of transferring part or all of a property...

      Read more
    4. 30.8.2022

      5 ways to avoid Court during a divorce

      In 2020, there were 103,592 divorces granted in England and Wales (ONS statistics). The Rt Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane, who is President...

      Read more
    5. 22.8.2022

      Proposed Capital Gains Tax Rule Changes Could Reduce...

      The government has proposed a number of changes to the capital gains tax (CGT) rules which, if enacted, will come...

      Read more
    6. 1.8.2022

      Couples struggling to agree divorce settlements amid cost...

      The cost of living crisis and uncertainty about future mortgage rates are scuppering divorce negotiations as couples fear reaching financial...

      Read more
    7. 30.7.2022

      Elon Musk affair rumours highlight the many benefits...

      Elon Musk hit the headlines recently, denying rumours that he had an affair with the wife of Google cofounder Sergey...

      Read more
    8. 6.5.2022

      My ex has cut me off during divorce

      Unfortunately, it is far too common that when a client says it’s over, their spouse with the “purse strings”...

      Read more
    9. 6.5.2022

      How the Court views loans from parents during...

      A frequent issue in financial divorce cases is a loan from a spouse’s parent, often to pay legal fees,...

      Read more
    10. mesher order house

      Mesher Orders Explained

      What is a Mesher order? A Mesher Order allows the sale of the family home to be postponed in a...

      Read more
    11. 11.4.2022

      The End of The Blame Game!

      No-fault divorce will make divorce more amicable  The divorce ‘blame game’ has been consigned to history and the long-awaited reforms...

      Read more
    12. 11.4.2022

      Divorcing couples reaching financial settlement through Private FDR

      The Runaway Advantages of the Private FDR Our specialist lawyers are keen to ensure our divorcing clients achieve cost-effective outcomes...

      Read more
    13. 31.3.2022

      10 Interesting Facts About Same Sex Marriage and Divorce

      Eight years after same-sex marriage was written into law, we’re taking a look at these major life events by...

      Read more
    14. 31.3.2022

      No-Fault Divorce Has Arrived!

      Have you heard that breakup rates were exploding during the pandemic? New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)...

      Read more
    15. signing contract

      Decree Nisi

      In England and Wales, there are three key stages to the divorce process:  The Divorce Petition The Decree Nisi The...

      Read more
    16. 28.2.2022

      Divorce applications shut down from 31 March 2022

      From last year all divorce petitions in England and Wales were to be submitted to the court using the court...

      Read more
    17. 9.12.2021

      Are irreconcilable differences grounds for divorce?

      If you have come across this article it may have been as a result of an online search to see...

      Read more
    18. 9.12.2021

      Negotiating financial settlements in divorce

      Costly and acrimonious divorces: a lesson in what not to do  If you’re determined to pursue your financial claims...

      Read more
    19. 8.12.2021

      Reasons for divorce. Which is right for us?

      In England and Wales, there is only one legal ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has broken down...

      Read more
    20. squirrel hiding assets

      Uncovering hidden assets in your divorce

      Hiding Assets During a Divorce As part of your divorce, you and your ex will have to agree on how...

      Read more
    21. 10.11.2021

      Difference between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute

      The divorce process will, for many people, mean an introduction to some new terminology.  Two of the most important terms...

      Read more
    22. 9.11.2021

      Keeping social media out of divorce proceedings

      We’ve recently seen the playing out on twitter and Instagram of the high-profile separation of actor Ioan Gruffudd and...

      Read more
    23. 9.11.2021

      I helped build my spouse’s career

      What is the impact on our divorce settlement? It’s been almost two years since The Da Vinci Code author...

      Read more
    24. negotiation

      How to speed up a divorce

      6 steps to speed up the divorce process For many people, once they have made the decision that their marriage is...

      Read more