Managing divorce proceedings during Coronavirus isolation
We are facing a challenge to our society unique in modern times. At the time of writing this, Boris Johnson has effectively announced a lockdown of the entire country. But what does this mean for those going through divorce or separation? Here’s a summary –
Firstly, the Family Court has been quick to adapt to our new circumstances. Judges have moved out of their court rooms and many hearings are taking place remotely, using telephone and video conferencing facilities. This means that court proceedings for divorce, financial settlement, disputes concerning children and seeking protection from domestic abuse can carry on. The experience of a virtual court room is different from before, but the business of judges making decisions to help people separate their lives from each other with dignity has not stopped.
Secondly, many disputes are settled without court proceedings, using technology. Video conferencing makes it possible for separating couples to have mediation, arbitration and private dispute resolution hearings (known as private FDRs) from home.
One particular challenge is faced by families where children move between their parents’ homes, sometimes over considerable distances. The PM’s announcement on 23 March means the vast majority of children will need to stay where they are for the next three weeks. That may lead to very real problems and do take advice from your lawyer if you think your situation is such that the courts, police or social services need to intervene.
For most families, however, they will need to find innovative ways for children to spend time with each parent. This could involve video chats, texting or perhaps meeting in a safe space online. Inevitably that will lead to disputes. The law says that involvement of both parents in a child’s life is presumed to be a positive benefit to the child unless the contrary is shown and provided the child is not put at risk of suffering harm. We will have to be creative in what we come up with.
Many law firms, my own included, are seeing the benefit of major investment in paperless technology in recent years. All our staff are working from home. We communicate by email, phone, messaging services and video chats. Our files are all held securely online and our computer systems operate entirely in the cloud. So, every step of your divorce or separation can be progressed without paper.
Drop me an email telling us about your situation if you would like to talk confidentially with one of our lawyers.