COVID-19 outbreak situation is constantly developing and with each day bringing new measures to combat the outbreak and new restrictions to our day to day lives, the levels of uncertainty in public grow. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by worry and concern in such a situation, in particular if you are already traversing a difficult time when you have separated, are in midst of divorce proceedings or a child custody battle.
With a higher than usual volume of enquiries from the worried public, our family and divorce solicitors have put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions which we trust will be helpful to you in navigating these difficult times.
If you need assistance with your divorce, financial settlement, child arrangement or any other family law matter, please contact our Divorce and family lawyers in London office on 020 3372 5125 or complete our online enquiry form.
COVID-19 Update – Divorce and Family law FAQ
Are your offices closing down?
Our offices are open and will stay open. We are committed to delivering the same outstanding level of service to our clients as always.
While our offices have implemented the Social distancing policy even before it was advised by the Government, we continue to be fully operational. Whether you have an ongoing case with us or have a matter that requires our divorce and family law solicitor’s expertise, we are here to help. While we are currently working remotely, our firm had, long before this crisis, implemented a comprehensive disaster response plan that ensured we were ready to continue with our operations seamlessly, even when our physical offices had to be closed down. Therefore, you do not have to worry that there might be any disruption or delays to the progress of your matter. To ensure that the advice on minimising all non-essential contact is implemented, we have the following measures in place:
- Consultations and regular update on client instructions are done online (emails, phones, videolinks);
- document exchange conducted through our client portal or email. You can rest assured that this will not compromise the confidentiality of your matter, as we have one of the best set of cyber security measures in place.
- all the work is done online, ensuring there are no delays to your matter;
I have an upcoming hearing, will it be adjourned due to COVID-19?
At the time of writing this, the courthouses are functioning as normal and most hearings are going ahead as planned. Furthermore, the Government has announced they will shortly be introducing a bill to the House of Commons that will grant them powers to implement new measures. Among these measures there are provisions for allowing the courts and tribunals to make wider use of the phone and video linking facilities for hearings.
At this point, we do not foresee the courts being shut down and the hearings adjourned as a matter of default policy. We will be monitoring the situation closely and issuing updates in this respect. You can also see further guidance on court attendance during the outbreak here.
UPDATE: The courts are mostly now hearing applications via phones and videolinks.
I have an upcoming hearing at court/meeting with social services and I am worried about travelling. Can I cancel it?
Currently, there are no legal provisions that allow you to unilaterally cancel a meeting with social services or get an adjournment for your hearing. While there is a strong message from the Government in respect of social distancing, the country is not on a lockdown and this does not amount to a legal default position on all the appointments being cancelled.
If you have particularly strong reasons for worrying about the need to travel, in most cases you can apply for adjournment or alternative arrangements for your meeting or hearing. As this will be highly dependable on your particular circumstances, we would advise you to contact our divorce and family law solicitors to discuss your matter.
My ex-partner in threatening to stop contact with my child, citing Coronavirus outbreak.
Irrespective of the situation, if you are someone with parental responsibility over the child, you are entitled to have contact with the child, unless court ordered restrictions are in place. You can read more about your rights as non-resident parent here.
How to proceed in a situation where your contact is threatened will depend on your individual circumstances. If you are someone who has no formal arrangements for contact with your child, you might need to apply for child arrangement order. If you have the order in place, but there is still a refusal by the child’s other parent to abide by it, you can apply to enforce it.
We advise that you contact our divorce and family lawyers for a free, no obligation discussion in respect of how you could proceed. They can advise you on how to tackle the issue, ensuring that it’s both quick and cost effective.
It is also advisable that you ensure that the proposed activities during the contact are within the guidelines issued by the government in respect of COVID-19 outbreak.
My child is due to have contact with other parent and I am concerned about it due to COVID-19 outbreak.
If you have good reasons for being concerned about your child being exposed to health risks, including COVID-19, there are legal measures that you can take. You need to keep in mind that your child’s other parent also has parental rights and responsibilities, therefore all the decisions in respect of the child, irrespective of who the child lives with, will need to be taken together. If you are concerned for your child’s safety due to contact, please get in touch with our child law solicitors. They will evaluate the situation and give you options on how to move forward.
In most cases, things can be settled amicably. If required, our child law specialists will reach out to the other parent and will put forward a detailed, well argued letter explaining your concerns. They can negotiate alternative ways of contact that will ensure your piece of mind.
Where amicable solution is not possible, our family law team can assist you in putting forward a prohibited steps or specific issues orders that will safeguard your child.
I am worried about escalating domestic violence due to prolonged isolation with my abusive partner.
Unfortunately many, in particular women, live in controlling and abusive relationships. For these people spending more time with their partners is something to be dreaded and avoided. The measures taken for slowing down the spread of COVID-19 will affect this demographic in a disproportionate manner. In manner similar to Christmas Period when domestic violence incidents increase dramatically, this period of isolation is likely to have the same effect and we are already getting calls from people concerned for their safety.
If you are in an immediate danger, you need to call 999. You can also look at https://www.refuge.org.uk/ for measures of support.
If you are not in immediate danger, but are concerned about your situation and anticipate that things will become more difficult, please contact our family law solicitors. They can guide you in respect of legal measures that can be taken.
Our team of family lawyers will assist you in getting non-molestation order to protect you and ensure you can safely stay in your home, while the abuser is vacated from it to keep you and your children safe.