How we are continuing to support our clients
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented all of us, our families, businesses and communities with an unprecedented situation. Family law is quickly evolving to try and deal with the challenges being presented regarding social distancing, courts not having in-person hearings and many other aspects of the current situation.
South West Family Law recognises that these problems can have a huge impact upon people’s lives – particularly where children have to move between separate parents – and that many will be experiencing varying levels of uncertainty, not knowing what to do for the best.
Our opening hours remain the same (Monday-Friday 9am-6pm) and we continue to support all our clients as usual. We have always operated using smart working practices, with communications methods via email, telephone and video calling if necessary. Whether you are an existing or new client, contact us direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
To help with immediate questions, the below aims to offer initial guidance:
Child contact arrangements and lockdown
We are receiving many enquiries regarding arrangements for children who spend time with each of their parents, when those parents are no longer living together. It is worth emphasising that the movement of children under 18 between separate parental households is one exception to the Government’s Stay at Home Rules, and unless there is good reason, it is expected that children will continue to spend time with both parents as they may have prior to lockdown.
If direct contact is unavoidably missed then the Court will expect indirect alternatives to be arranged, including the usual methods of Skype, FaceTime and phone calls. It may also be appropriate for direct contact missed to be made up in some other way, at an alternative time.
Another common issue is where one parent feels the other is not taking social distancing seriously and may be exposing the child, and subsequently that parent’s household, to some form of risk. This can be especially problematic if that parent has underlying health problems or is in an at risk category. It is important to try to discuss concerns with the other parent and where there may be difficulties in communication, remote mediation may be of assistance. If this does not resolve the issue then we can advise and deal directly with the other parent or their solicitors. Ultimately, an application could be made to the Court if the problem is not capable of being resolved.
Official guidance from the President of the Family Division on Children Act proceedings in light of Covid-10 was issued on March 24th. This can be found here.
Can I start a divorce during the Coronavirus lockdown?
Yes you can. The courts are fully operational and we are able to advise and assist you with this in the usual way via email, telephone or video call.
Court hearings during lockdown
Divorce, financial settlement and children related applications can be made as normal.
Most divorce proceedings do not involve the Court hearing which has to be attended in person. While the Family Court has traditionally favoured in-person hearings in issues regarding financial settlements and child arrangements, it is recognised that alternatives are necessary during this time to achieve social distancing. As such all hearings are presently being conducted as ‘remote hearings’ via telephone and video conferencing facilities.
In certain situations, where cases cannot proceed, an adjournment may be necessary. If you have concerns about your case, please contact us.
If your hearing is to be conducted remotely, we will normally arrange an experienced barrister to deal with this on your behalf and you will receive full guidance from us in advance.
We will continue to update you as we receive further guidance from the government and the Courts.