Can I apply for a divorce whilst we are in lockdown?
The simple answer is yes you can.
Whether you have made the recent decision to divorce, or if you now have the time to do so, the Courts are still open and processing divorce petitions.
As long as you can demonstrate that your marriage has irretrievably broken down you are free to start the process.
You will need to consider the grounds for divorce which are separation of 5 years, separation of 2 years and you both consent to the divorce, the other party’s adultery or behaviour or desertion.
You will also need either your original marriage certificate or a certified copy and then you can action your divorce – or we can on your behalf. As the Courts have moved to an online system recently for divorce, the time frame is considerably shorter than it was.
Can I still make a financial application to the Court during lockdown?
As mentioned above, the courts are still open and are conducting hearings remotely, so yes, you can make an application and it will be considered either by the Court or alternatively you may be attracted to alternative dispute resolution – in other words, mediation, collaborative law, private hearings or arbitration.
If you issue within the Court arena then the timetable will be set as has always been the case.
There are changes inevitably with the pandemic, for example the First Appointments are generally dealt with on paper rather than by a hearing.
The other hearings: the financial dispute resolution hearing and final hearings though are being dealt with by the Courts wherever possible, either on the telephone or via video link.
Inevitably this can cause some problems if people do not have the technology – although most people have a telephone.
The key is to consider which approach would work best for you – sometimes having the Court process in the background whilst exploring say a private FDR can be hugely helpful and speed the process up as well.
Can I obtain a new house valuation for my financial case?
As we all know things are different at the moment. The property market has been paused for some time, although things are slowly starting to move with estate agents reopening and socially distanced viewings taking place.
You will need to be guided by professionals in terms of the actual impact on the value of the house, – some people are finding that their house value has fallen – sometimes by as much as 10% or even more, whilst others are being told that their property is in a bubble and may in fact attract a premium.
We would advise everyone to consider carefully the value of their property and speak to their valuer – our advice would be to get an updated valuation.
The relevance of a new valuation will depend upon the stage of the proceedings you have reached. If you have already finalised your case pre covid then you should seek specialist advice as to whether there is any possibility of you revisiting that order.
This is a complex area of law and each case will be judged on its own merits so please act quickly if you find yourself in this situation. If you have not yet reached an agreement or had a final order then we would advise you get a new valuation.
Can I still co-parent during lockdown?
It should be straightforward to make arrangements and co-parent during lockdown, as the Government confirmed that children are permitted to move between the households of separated families.
What you should do as parents is make a sensible assessment of the circumstances and consider the health & wellbeing of everyone in each household before deciding what the arrangements should be.
If you have any serious concerns about the child arrangements or your child is not returned after spending time with the other parent, an urgent application can be made to the Family Court to determine this short-term issue.
A Judge will scrutinise the actions of both parents and determine what is a reasonable and safe arrangement. If you find yourself in this situation, you should seek specialist advice from a family lawyer as the Court hearing itself would be held remotely via telephone or video.
During lockdown some separated families are finding it difficult to co-parent and decide whose responsibility it is to home school the children.
Where possible, virtual online and home-schooling materials should be shared between both parents. It is important that both parents play an active role, even if this is done virtually with the absent parent supporting the child with homework.
We know it’s tough but try not to feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings of helplessness.
While the situation is undeniably difficult, this won’t be our reality forever and it’s important to look after yourself during this pandemic. We all need hope so try and remain positive during this difficult time.
If you do require advice and assistance with your divorce, then it is important to seek specialist advice from a team of professionals. If you are struggling emotionally with being in lockdown with someone who you have separated from, there are other support networks that can assist.
About Stacey St. Clair
After completing my law degree at the University of Brunel, I undertook my LPC at The College of Law in London. I completed my training at a reputable firm in Beaconsfield and qualified in 2011.
Since qualifying, I have specialised in family law and before joining Hawkins Family Law, worked at a large family law practice based in London. I joined Hawkins Family Law in 2016 and have extensive experience in all areas of family law, dealing with complex financial disputes and sensitive cases involving children.
My experience includes cases involving substantial income and capital, both in this country and abroad, as well as a variety of financial, business disputes and substantial pensions. I advise on Pre and Post Nupital agreements.
I am able to negotiate and advise on arrangements for children, including specific issues about schooling and relocation out of the jurisdiction. I am Resolution accredited and committed to assisting client to reach a solution without unnecessary conflict.
I often represent clients in Court, undertaking my own advocacy for disputes relating to injunctions, occupation of the family home and urgent welfare issues regarding children. My clients feel supported throughout the process and my aim is to give clear constructive advice.
My priority is listening to my clients’ needs and objectives and then adopting a holistic approach, with compassion and empathy. Where possible, I always seek an out of Court settlement to help alleviate the stress of a family breakdown.
I am an experienced collaborative lawyer, and I will always prioritise my clients’ interests and objectives first and take a practical, no nonsense approach to cases. I combine knowledge and experience with empathy to ensure my clients know they are in safe hands and fully supported.
My experience in advising on complex financial remedies, private children law and co-habitation is recognised by Resolution’s specialist accreditation scheme.
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