FAQs : Law, Divorce, Financial and Child Arrangements during COVID-19 Pandemic

UPDATED 20 April 2020

 

At Sharp Family Law, we recognise how our client’s lives have been changed dramatically by the Coronavirus outbreak and the arrangements now put in place by the Government. This page has been created to help inform and answer the many questions you are asking at this time.

How will COVID-19 impact Child Arrangements

How do you self-isolate when the children have to share their time equally between parents? What if you require supervised contact from isolated family members?

This is the official guidance from the President of the Family Division issued on 24th March 2020 on children act proceedings in light of Covid-19.

Two points worth noting are:

  • the movement of children under 18 between separate parental households is one exception to the Government’s Stay at Home Rules;
  • if direct contact is missed due to the virus then the Court will expect indirect alternatives to be arranged.

Movement between households is not mandatory – there is a need for parent’s to be sensible and assess each situation on its own merit. The risk of infection, the family’s health and the presence of vulnerable individuals with each household needs to be considered.

Remember this is temporary. Be reasonable with your accommodation. However – this is not the time to shut down all contact with the other parent – consider how stressful and anxious this time is for many children.

There are many indirect contact methods being offered, as well as the usual Skype, Facetime and phone-calls, to enable your children to stay in touch with both parents.

Can you start a divorce during COVID-19?

Yes. The divorce proceedings systems are still running, both on paper and through the online government site. We have no words yet about possible delays in the Court. We are on hand to assist you in this process.

Will my court hearings be cancelled or delayed?

The family court has traditionally favoured in-person hearings,  and attendance is mandated by the Family Procedure Rules.

However, in the current crisis the Courts recognise that alternatives must be found so as not to delay cases. Although some hearings are being adjourned, many, including some lengthy final hearings, are going ahead – but as ‘remote hearings’.

This means that the Courts are still running and organising the majority of their cases through telephone and video conferencing facilities.

Some cases cannot proceed and have to be adjourned; for example, if evidence having been thrown into disarray, or an expert or valuer is unable to complete their work. Speak with lawyer if you fear this is the case.

Where these considerations do not apply, however, all parties should assume that the hearing will go ahead and the only issue is the practical arrangements.

How does a remote hearing work?

The arrangements vary court to court, but you will receive guidance on this. Your legal representative will assist you will setting up the arrangements, and should arrange for you to speak to your solicitor or barrister before speaking to the Judge. Here’s a few pointers:

  • Provide a landline or a number that has clear connectivity. Make sure your telephone can accept calls from unknown numbers.
  • Please try to be in a private quiet area so that you are not overheard and can hear everything. Remember no one unauthorised is allowed to listen in on conferences with the Judge, though they may be present for discussion with your legal representative.
  • Anticipate being available for longer than the listed time. Please ensure you set aside an entire period just in case, with no other plans booked.
  • Please be patient – if the Court does not ring you at the time the hearing is listed for, it is likely the previous hearing has overrun and therefore the start of your hearing may be delayed. Please do not telephone the court in this instance as your line may be engaged when the Judge attempts to call you.

We are following the situation closely and are constantly being updated by HM Courts & Tribunals, the Law Society and the President of the Family Division on what the courts are doing during this time. We will tell you what this will mean for your case.

How to work with your solicitor remotely to keep your case moving forward

All our solicitors are working remotely and have full and secure access to your case file and documents.

We can communicate with you by email, mobile or video conference (Skype/Zoom).

Please do let your solicitor know which that works best for you.

Please be aware that we are updating this article as and when we receive further guidance from the government and the Courts.