In what is an unprecedented situation, we are receiving many enquiries concerning the impact of the ongoing lockdown upon the legal processes surrounding divorce and separation.
In this article, Stuart Barton provides a summary of the most common queries raised by couples experiencing difficulties in their marriage or Civil Partnership during what is a very challenging time.
Can I start a divorce during lockdown?
Absolutely. The family court can continue to accept applications for divorces or the dissolution of Civil Partnerships. Applications can be submitted online as an alternative to the traditional ‘paper’ application.
How do I instruct a solicitor during lockdown?
Ring us, email us, contact us through our Social Media channels or complete our online contact form. Our team can obtain detailed instructions from you over the phone or video conferencing if you prefer. We have the technology in place to proceed with your case and provide advice without the need for a physical ‘face to face’ meeting.
How do I keep in touch with my solicitor during lockdown?
Even if we are not ‘at the office’ as normal, our team are all working remotely and have full access to our case management system to ensure we are on hand to answer queries and respond promptly. Generally speaking, any communications between you and your solicitor should be in private and away from children or other adults in the household. Email is obviously an effective tool but if it is difficult to email us, why not ring us whilst you are outside of your home getting your dose of daily exercise?
What if we are living together during lockdown?
Separating from a spouse or partner is an emotionally and practically challenging time for anybody. Coping with a pandemic only adds to those stresses and strains. If you are in lockdown with a person you wish to separate from, avoiding and keeping conflict to a minimum will assist both of you in navigating your way through this period.
If you are finding things particularly difficult, family consultants, counsellors and mediators remain available to provide support through online sessions. They can provide vital practical and emotional support if necessary.
What if I am trapped in an abusive relationship during lockdown?
First of all, please don’t suffer in silence. Victims are particularly vulnerable during the lockdown. This is not because the lockdown causes domestic abuse in itself, but it does make it more difficult for victims to get help and advice and places them at greater risk.
We have now launched a live web chat service which victims can access from 9.30am – 9pm, 7 days a week. We are already using the courts to obtain injunctions and orders for victims over the phone. The advantage of using the web chat service for victims is that the thread of the conversation isn’t saved on their phones or tablets and therefore can’t be seen by anyone else. We can also help with safety planning, practical advice, protective orders for the victim and children, orders preventing the abusive parent seeing or removing the children from the victim’s care as well as all of our other services.
How do we value our assets during lockdown?
In all divorce and separation cases, obtaining accurate and up to date valuations for the family home and other assets is critical. Estate agents are proving flexible in providing virtual valuations for properties or arranging to conduct valuations on a ‘walk by’ or ‘drive by’ basis. Speak to your local estate agent to see what they can offer but be aware that the property market faces a period of great uncertainty at present and valuations may well fluctuate in a relatively short period of time.
In respect of other investments, most financial institutions remain open for business and can continue to respond to enquiries. They may take longer to respond to requests for valuations or statements so don’t leave requests to the last minute.