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Separated Families and Christmas 2020 – What are the rules in Jersey?

Advocate, Rose Colley provides insight to separated families meeting over the Christmas period

For family lawyers Christmas is always a busy time particularly where parents cannot agree the arrangements for their children over the Christmas and New Year period. This year the challenges for parents and the wider family are even more difficult. Here I try to bring advice for parents and families up to date following the latest Government announcement on 18th December.

Even during the lockdown earlier this year the Government made it clear that existing child contact and shared residence arrangements should continue during the pandemic as far as it was sensible to do so. This advice remains and is not changed by the current rules for Christmas and New Year. However, it is important to note the following: –

  1. All parents should take sensible precautions to minimise the risk of spreading infection. Given the very large number of adults and children self-isolating in the Island currently, this means that rules on isolation must be adhered to even if this means that contact arrangements need to be changed;
  2. Household mixing over the Christmas and New Year period is now severally restricted and can only take place on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. This does not mean, however, that children cannot move between their parents if it is safe to do so;
  3. On Christmas and Boxing Days family gatherings are restricted to 10 people only and to only 1 gathering on each of these days. Children under 3 are not counted within the maximum of 10 but all other children are;
  4. The Government is stressing the importance of minimising the numbers as far as possible and therefore it may well be that parents decide that arrangements for their children and who those children meet may have to be changed;
  5. It is essential that any concerns that parents have are discussed with the other parent and compromises are reached wherever possible. This is an ideal time for co-parenting;
  6. Everyone will want to do all they can to ensure that older and vulnerable relatives are kept safe and therefore it will be necessary in these cases to explain to children why they may not be able to see grandparents, for example, over the Christmas period.

Before Christmas Day and after Boxing Day no household mixing is allowed, and this includes Christmas Eve. Again, this does not stop existing child arrangements happening between separated families, but it does mean that children cannot be taken to see other relatives and friends in their homes or gardens. This is a very important rule for everyone to follow. Therefore, if it is essential to  meet other households this must take place in a wide-open space such as the beach and the 2-metre physical distancing must be adhered to.

During 2020 nothing has been normal and the Festive Season is no different so the best advice for all separated parents is to discuss the arrangements for their children calmly and carefully, compromise where necessary and try to understand concerns that the other parent may have. All of us are now experts on connecting on-line and although this is not the same as face to face contact in some cases this may well be the safest option.

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