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How Has the Pandemic Affected the Divorce Process?

April 10, 2021  |   Posted by :   |   Divorce

It’s really too early to say whether the pandemic has affected the rate of divorce – some reports show a rise in enquiries while others seem to suggest that people are holding off on separation until things go back to normal, while yet others highlight the fact that many couples have used lockdown to really work on their relationships and become closer during this time.

However, the events of the last year have certainly put a lot of stress on couples and families, and for those who have decided to split, the pandemic has certainly impacted the divorce process in several ways:

Court Delays and Out of Court Alternatives

Despite initial delays the Family Court has done its best to prioritise urgent cases and those regarding children’s issues, but there has also been a rise in out-of-court alternatives such as mediation, family arbitration, and collaborative family law, which require a more cooperative approach but allow couples to reach a resolution privately and independently. All of these alternative options have taken place via virtual meetings over Zoom or similar, which has also proven to be somewhat helpful in providing an extra element of detachment and professionalism for couples who have previously struggled to discuss their issues. Online court hearings have also taken place via Court Video Platform (CVP), though hearings are still taking a little longer than usual, and if you are in need of court intervention it’s likely you will need to wait until Covid restrictions have been lifted.

Dividing Up Assets

Due to the economic upheavals of the past year, some separating couples are holding off on valuing business or property assets until there’s a little more certainty. During lockdown, house appraisals and viewings were somewhat difficult, and financial considerations like furlough and business grants or loans have the potential to complicate things further. On the other hand, cheap mortgages and stamp duty holidays have made people want to settle quickly. In all cases, speaking with an experienced solicitor and getting all the necessary documentation together for a thorough valuation of your joint and individual assets is the best way to pave the way for a fair financial settlement.

It could take some time for the true impact on businesses and the property industry, so it’s important to get a professional valuation and expert advice on your specific circumstances.

Child Support

Child maintenance could be affected by the financial and employment repercussions of the pandemic as income and expenses of both parties may have altered drastically in the past year. Many people have suffered a drop in income which may impact on their ability to pay for maintenance, while others are experiencing much lower expenses since the switch to working from home. In determining maintenance, the court will consider whether these changes are likely to be temporary or long-term.

Co-Parenting and Children’s Arrangements

The pandemic has turned school and childcare routines upside down and thrown a spanner in the works of many existing children’s arrangements. We’ve tried to keep separated parents up to date on the changing rules but what’s best for you and your family will depend on your unique circumstances. And, as always, your first port of call for advice should be your solicitor, to make sure that any temporary changes and decisions around children’s arrangements during the pandemic are following the necessary guidelines.

Hopefully, as restrictions ease, normal schedules for work, school, and childcare will start to resume, but it may be worth adding in contingency plans or a phased return to your existing arrangements.

Whatever your circumstances, it’s vital to get professional advice from an experienced solicitor who can help you find the right solution for your unique needs and situation. They will also be best positioned to negotiate the changing legal landscape and advise you on how to handle delays, complications, or other unexpected difficulties caused by the pandemic. To speak to a friendly, down to earth family lawyer with your best interests at heart, get in touch with the team at Frances Lindsay & Co and let us take some of the weight off your shoulders. And just as we’re beginning to see a hopeful end to the pandemic, perhaps your decree absolute may be in sight soon, too.

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