Our physical offices may be temporarily closed to the public, but we are still receiving a steady stream of new enquiries regarding divorce and separation. Lockdown seems to have compounded the relationship struggles many couples were already experiencing, or in some cases even provided the catalyst for the decision to separate.
However, the family courts are also currently working at limited capacity, focusing on the most urgent cases, with children’s safeguarding issues as a priority, so some couples may feel as if they are stuck in limbo – wanting to separate but not sure how to proceed while everything is in shutdown.
The situation is certainly difficult but not impossible, and the family law community is doing its best to provide support and guidance for separating couples safely via socially distanced methods of communication such as email, phone, and video conferencing. In fact, some couples are finding that the enforced downtime is providing them with space and time to prepare and negotiate issues without the pressure of court dates, laying a solid foundation for a more amicable resolution.
There are several options for out of court dispute resolution, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and collaborative family law, all of which can be conducted remotely via Zoom and phone. For the time being, paperwork is being handled digitally, and you may choose to wait until lockdown measures are lifted to pursue any final decisions, but for now there’s still plenty that can be done without the need for face to face appointments.
Obviously the current situation has turned everything on its head, and you may be in need of some immediate guidance on how to navigate the quarantine rules while going through separation, for example: whether you’re allowed to leave home following an argument with your spouse, or how to deal with children’s arrangements during lockdown, or where to get help and support if you suffering domestic abuse.
In all cases, your solicitor is there to answer your questions, provide guidance, and help you work through individual issues to do with your separation, whether that means dealing with things right now or making plans for the future.
There are, of course, some aspects that will have to wait, such as selling property or dividing up certain assets, while other issues may be forever changed due to Covid-19, such as putting plans in place for children’s arrangements if there is a second wave and subsequent lockdown later this year or beyond.
We realise that going through separation can be a stressful time, even without a global pandemic in the background, and couples may be struggling with not being able to move things forward as quickly as they’d like, or having to remain in cohabitation when they’d rather be apart, but we hope that in some ways the current situation might help to put things into perspective. Consider this time an opportunity to step back and take stock; to focus on a better future for you and your family and look at the broad picture, not bicker over the tiny details. Use this time to cool off, prepare, make plans, and come to as much of an agreement as possible – so when you are able to proceed with the process, everything will run much more smoothly and with less animosity.
And most importantly, remember that you’re not going through it alone. We are here for you – albeit remotely – and we offer a free 45-minute phone or video-call consultation to all our family law clients to help them figure out the best way forward. Let us take some of the weight off your shoulders and get in touch with one of our down-to-earth family lawyers.