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Changes in Family law due to Coronavirus

Can I still start divorce proceedings whilst there is  a “lockdown” or do I need to wait until the restrictions are removed?

You can still start divorce proceedings now if you have decided that your marriage has broken down.  All our divorce cases are started using either the post or online services and in the vast majority of cases, there is no need to attend court in person. You can even start divorce proceedings if you and your partner are living in the same household but leading separate lives.

What do I need to start a divorce and how do we progress/discuss matters if we can’t come into the office?

The majority of Linder Myers solicitors are working remotely and are set to use online technology to communicate effectively with our clients. Whether it is a meeting on Zoom, telephone calls, emails or even WhatsApp! My clients have my mobile number and many prefer to contact me via WhatsApp.

We can arrange an initial chat using whatever form of technology you prefer and we have introduced new systems to enable you to easily provide us with your identity documents.

Once we have your identity details and your file has been opened we can contact your partner. Many of my clients are comfortable using email and many prefer it to over hard copies through the post. Not only is it quicker, it is also a safer way of communicating at the moment.  The only thing we need as a hard copy is your original marriage certificate, which you can post to our office.

You are already dealing with my divorce, will there be a delay?

The courts are open and whilst there might be a slight delay in the administration with many court staff working remotely, they are still able to deal with the divorce process.  If an application is classed as urgent then the court will be able to prioritise.

Can we still deal with the financial aspects of the divorce during the pandemic?

Yes. At Linder Myers, our offices are still open to accept post and scan documents and we will ensure that the paperwork needed to assist you in reaching a financial agreement can be completed and exchanged with the other party.  We are able to prepare/consider proposals with you as usual. The only limitation to being able to finalise matters might be because you or your ex-partner’s income has reduced substantially during the current situation as a result of either furlough leave, working at reduced level of income, redundancy or a business asset that has seen a substantial drop in turnover. In those circumstances it might not be advisable to conclude matters at the moment.

If any financial court hearings are necessary then they are currently being held remotely via video conference.

What happens if we have a child arrangement order?

The courts and the government have stated that parents are able to leave their homes for the purposes of facilitating contact with the other parent. There is specific reference to this in the new legislation, which isn’t highlighted very often by the press. If you are both in agreement to a change in the provisions then you can of course do that, but it would perhaps be sensible to record the change in writing or email, and agree when the changes will be reviewed.

If you have a court order then you should continue to abide by it unless there is a valid reason not to do so, such as following the medical advice to self-isolate if you or someone in your household is showing symptoms of the virus. The courts have gone on to say that if there is a cause for the provisions in a court order to be varied then the “spirit” of the court order should still be followed such as remote contact.

Can I start an application for a child arrangement order or do I need to wait until the end of the pandemic?

The courts are open for business so, if you believe that such an application is needed, it can be made.  You would still need to meet with a local mediator, which can be facilitated by video call. If an application to the court is still required after mediation then the courts are also using video conferencing for court hearings to ensure that there is minimal delay.

Is there anything else I should be thinking about if I am separated/already going through a divorce during the pandemic?

It sounds morbid, but you should really think about making a Will if you don’t have one already, or if you need to amend it following a separation from your spouse/civil partner.

I know it is easy to say, and  indeed research shows that Lawyers are one of the worst professions at making Wills for themselves but it is a relatively quick and painless exercise and at Linder Myers.

Our fees for a straightforward Will is just £200 + vat. We are utilising video conferencing and will make sure your Will is prepared and approved without delay. All you need is some friendly neighbours or friends who would be prepared to witness and sign your Will over the garden fence!

You might also want to check who would receive any pension benefit in the event of your death. You can usually do this by making a quick call to the pension department administrators and they will send you out a form called an “expression of wishes form.” You can then have a think about who you would want to inherit any pension provision and insert the details. Whilst the pension trustees are not bound to follow your requests, they do use it as a point of reference.

If you have any other questions or would like to talk to me directly, please don’t hesitate to contact me via sarah.mccarthy@lindermyers.co.uk.

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