Christmas bubbles, children’s residence and contact with children during the COVID-19 crisis in Scotland

Day five of our #12DaysOfChristmas #12DaysOfFamilyLaw blog series considers Christmas bubbles and childcare arrangements during the COVID-19 crisis.

It is well-known, throughout the UK, that exclusive “Christmas bubbles” may be formed of up to three households between 23 and 27 December 2020. In Scotland there is an additional requirement that there may not be more than eight people in a bubble though children under 12 do not count towards the total.

As we approach this special time, it is worth emphasising that guidance is also in place, UK-wide, to encourage adherence to court orders on children’s residence and contact with children and to promote common-sense and cooperative dialogue between parents / those with parental responsibility on these matters during the COVID-19 (C-19) crisis.

The first guidance in this area was issued on 24 March 2020 by the President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice for England & Wales (link here), as summarised in our blog of 25 March 2020 (link here). 

In Scotland, the Lord President of the Court of Session issued guidance on these matters on 27 March 2020 (link here), as summarised in our blog of 1 April 2020 (link here).

The Lord President issued further guidance for Scotland on 16 July 2020 and then, following the introduction of different local protection levels, on 18 November 2020 (link here). This latest guidance:

  • Provides for an exemption to all of the level-based travel restrictions where the travel is for the purposes of shared parenting.

  • Reiterates that if there is a court order or formal agreement in place, the arrangements which it sets out should be adhered to, unless both people who have parental responsibilities have agreed to alternative arrangements.

  • Encourages any agreed alternative arrangements to be recorded by exchange of emails or text message.

  • Emphasises that, if a court is later asked to rule upon compliance with a court order during the C-19 crisis, the court will consider whether each parent has acted reasonably and sensibly in all of the circumstances of the case and in terms of the government guidance in place at the time.

  • Makes clear that if a child does not spend time with the other parent or carer in terms of a court order, it is expected that alternative arrangements will be made to establish and maintain regular contact between the child and the other parent / carer, for example via FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if none of these are possible, by telephone.

To read the previous blogs in our 12 Days of Christmas series, please click on the links below:

Day 1: Self-care tips during a divorce

Day 2: Why you need a Will

Day 3: Full financial disclosure: England & WalesScotland

Day 4: Are pre-nuptial agreements legally binding?

Disclaimer: This content does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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Partner and Head of Family Law, Scotland , Glasgow

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