The health, safety and well-being of our clients and colleagues remain our priority at this time. In accordance with the government's guidance, our offices are closed for face-to-face client meetings until further notice but, we remain open and running as usual with remote meetings available.
The global pandemic will undoubtedly have far reaching effects on us all but the service of our family law team is reassuring. We offer a FREE initial consultation to new clients and we have also set out below some practical guidance for new and existing clients.
In accordance with the government's advice our legal team is working from home, if you need to contact them please telephone on their direct line or email your solicitor directly. If unsure, our contact details can be found on our website at ‘Our Team’.
At this time we encourage all of our prospective clients to contact us via our online new client enquiry form at ‘Contact Us’ on our website. Your query will be received by our legal team and they will call/email you back as soon as possible.
In the event that you have an upcoming court hearing, please be aware that the courts have moved all but essential hearings to telephone or video hearings. Some hearings are currently being adjourned to a later time and we will keep you updated of any changes to hearing dates and venues.
If you are representing yourself and you have a hearing coming up within the next few weeks, the courts should contact you with any changes but, if you remain uncertain then you should contact the courts directly.
The government has clarified that children can move between their parents' homes during the stay-at-home lockdown. Arrangements should continue where safe to do so and if there is a court order in place, parents should use their best efforts to comply with such order. If you cannot comply with the court order due to illness or isolation, you should provide alternative arrangements such as video calls so that the children can continue their relationship with the other parent.
Please refer to our recent blog concerning child arrangements during coronavirus for further information.
If you are experiencing ongoing issues in respect of child arrangements it is important that you aim to be amicable especially in the current circumstances. We would strongly recommend mediation or arbitration and we understand that local providers remain available to assist you. If you need us to, we are also able to advise you and correspond with the other parent in order to help alleviate issues.
In the event that issues persist whether these have been ongoing prior to the pandemic or have arisen as a result of the pandemic, an application to the court may be your only option going forward. In such circumstance, we would highly recommend that you speak with one of our team members to discuss your situation further.
If you have recently made an application to the court for divorce, the courts may be experiencing some delays in processing applications but the general understanding is that all applications are being processed and should be issued effectively.
If you are in the process of divorce whereby the court has already issued your application and, are either in the process of making an application for decree nisi or have already applied then, again there may be some delay by the courts in processing the application but, your matter should not be affected generally.
If you have recently had your decree nisi pronounced and you have made an application for decree absolute you may experience some delay but generally your application should be processed. In the event that you have not yet made an application for decree absolute, we would strongly recommend that you do not proceed in making an application for decree absolute as there could be adverse consequences of prematurely bringing the marriage to an end. If you would like to find out more about the timing of your decree absolute then please get in touch.
Finances on divorce
The coronavirus has severely affected the economies of most countries and therefore will have affected values of assets. Certain national and international businesses have been particularly affected including but not limited to airlines, cruise ships, tourism, import and export with China and other countries. The same applies for any pension funds which may be particularly geared to investments which are significantly affected.
We recommend that you review any financial settlement or negotiations which have been reached to ensure that the settlement still meets your needs. If you are negotiating your financial settlement currently, you have to now consider that incomes are also being reduced or lost which will significantly change yours or your spouse's needs.
The global pandemic has also brought the housing market to a standstill as the government has advised that only people who have exchanged contracts should pursue completion. Unfortunately some mortgage offers may be withdrawn. These are all matters which need to be considered and reviewed before concluding finances on divorce.
If you require further guidance and assistance please let us know.
Domestic Violence/ living with an abusive partner during lockdown
The home secretary, Priti Patel, has clarified that domestic abuse victims are permitted to leave home to escape their partners or ask for help during the coronavirus lockdown. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is still operating in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic (0808 2000 247)
Some forms of domestic violence or criminal offences and should be reported to the police. We understand that nationally the Police have reported that there has been a rise in abuse since the crisis began. We strongly recommend that if you are in danger you should contact the Police urgently.
Further, you should familiarise yourself with The Silent Solution system. This is a system for victims of domestic abuse who might be afraid of further danger and escalation of harm if they are overheard when calling 999 in an emergency. When somebody calls 999, an operator will ask which emergency service is required. If the caller is unable to audibly signal to the operator, the call will be forwarded to an operating system. If 55 is pressed by the caller, the system will detect this. The operator will then transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency.
Due to self- isolation staying with family and friends might not be an option. You might be finding it harder to secure a refuge. The Local Authority has a responsibility to give you information about your housing rights.
The police can issue a domestic violence protection notice or domestic violence protection order. There are also remedies through the courts, for example, to obtain a Non-Molestation order. This Order can be made to last for several months or longer. If the person subject to the Non-Molestation Order breaches it, this is a criminal offence punishable with up to 5 years imprisonment.
As it stands the courts remain open however measures are being updated on how cases will be considered. There are orders which can be obtained from the family court on an urgent basis, such as a non-molestation order or occupation order, and the courts can impose whatever measures are necessary to safeguard an individual’s wellbeing.
It is important for you to try and obtain advice and support at the first available opportunity, particularly if you are concerned for the safety and wellbeing of yourself or any children in the home.