Coronavirus and childcare: facilitating contact in the ‘rule of six’ era

On Monday 14th September 2020, the UK government introduced the ‘rule of six’ in England to limit social contact in an attempt to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  

This new rule makes it illegal for groups of more than six people to meet in any setting, either indoors or outdoors, including in family homes or restaurants.  Breaking this is against the law and could lead to police intervention and fixed penalties for those involved. While this rule is clearly aimed at reducing social gatherings, there is one group this causes particular concern for: separated families, particularly large households.

The ‘rule of six’ and child contact arrangements

So how does the ‘rule of six’ affect child contact arrangements? What does it mean for children who travel between separated families? What happens if one of their parents lives in a large household where there are already six or more people under the roof?

Rather than banishing step-dad to the garden shed for the duration of weekly visits, the UK government has stated that children of separated parents travelling between households are exempt to this rule. This means if two children were to visit an existing household of five people for the purpose of ‘child contact’ this would not be a breach of the regulations.

Preserving childcare arrangements during the pandemic

This exemption remains consistent with both the government and the court’s approach shown throughout the pandemic as both have tried to preserve any existing child arrangements that were in place beforehand. During lockdown, the children of separated parents were exempt from the original ‘stay at home advice/regulations, as long as this was only in relation to visits to their non-resident parent. The courts were also very keen to stress that parents would be expected to comply with at least the spirit, if not the letter of any child arrangements orders already in place.

Dealing with difficulties

If you have been unable to agree appropriate contact arrangements for your children during the pandemic, our specialist family time will be happy to help. We are here to advise you on the various options available and suggest the best way forward for both you and your family. If you would like more information on this, or another family matter, contact us today on