How does my ‘Christmas bubble’ affect my co-parenting arrangements?

Covid-19 restrictions are making Christmas plans more complicated for many. This is especially true for separated or divorced parents. Both parents and families will want to make sure they can spend some time with the children.

This advice is accurate according to regulations in place on 21 December. The rules can change, so please make sure you follow any updated Government guidance.

Christmas bubble: a parent and child in christmas hats in front of a christmas tree

What is a 'Christmas bubble'?

Over Christmas, the rules on spending time with people are changing temporarily.

  • In England, Scotland and Wales, the new regulations will be in place between on Christmas Day. Areas of England which are in Tier 4 restrictions may not form a Christmas bubble. In Northern Ireland, you can choose to meet your ‘Christmas bubble’ for one day between 23rd and 27th December. You cannot stay overnight.
  • In a Christmas bubble, each “household” may mix with up to two other households in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Wales, each household may mix with one other household. Your household is anyone who lives in your home.
  • This ‘Christmas bubble’ can meet in:
    – A private home or garden;
    – A place of worship (for example, a church, mosque, sinagogue, or temple);
    – Outside, in a public space like a park, public square or a beach.
  • You might also be in a support bubble if you are the only adult in your home. Or if you have ‘bubbled’ with a family member or friend who lives alone except for children. A support bubble counts as one household, even if you don’t live together.
  • A Christmas bubble is ‘exclusive’. This means you can only be in one. You can’t change which households are in your bubble.
  • Depending on your local tier, households can still meet outdoors with people who are not in their Christmas bubble. What this looks like will change according to rules of the tier where you are. People in Tier 4 areas are restricted to meeting one person from another household, outside.
  • You can’t meet someone in a ‘private dwelling’ who is not part of your household or Christmas bubble. You also can’t meet in an indoor setting such as a pub, hotel or restaurant.
  • Try to keep any Christmas bubble as small as possible. Just because you can have three households (two in Wales), doesn’t mean you have to. With more people gathering, there is a greater risk of catching Covid-19.
  • Try to keep apart from the members of your Christmas bubble if possible. Ideally, you should wear masks throughout the day and keep windows open to ensure ventilation. Make sure everyone is washing their hands often, for at least 20 seconds at a time. If possible, try not to have physical contact with the other households in your bubble.
  • If you are self-isolating, you can not form a Christmas bubble.
  • You are allowed to travel between Tiers 1, 2 and 3 to spend time with your Christmas bubble. You should not travel into or out of Tier 4 areas.

What does this mean if I'm co-parenting?

  • Children aged under 18 who have separated parents can continue to move between homes. This means they can be part of each parent’s Christmas bubble. They are the only people who can be in more than one bubble.
  • Separated parents can mix indoors when necessary to allow a child to move between homes.
  • Separated parents do not form a household or a support bubble unless they meet the rest of the criteria for one.
  • This will affect separated parents who would still like to spend Christmas together. They will count as two separate households. In Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England (excluding Tier 4 areas), they can join up with one more household to form a Christmas bubble.
  • It is normal to find it tricky to work out your co-parenting arrangements over Christmas. We have more advice on coping with co-parenting over the festive period.
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