By Richard Bebb, 21st May 2020
‘Unprecedented’ is perhaps an overused word at the moment, but it certainly applies to our domestic and family arrangements. Most couples have never had to spend so long in each other’s company. Working from home; being furloughed; home schooling the kids; social distancing from other families – these are all major adjustments which can create a real pressure-cooker environment in even the most harmonious household. Inevitably those pressures are greater where couples were already having some difficulties – and, unfortunately, for some it may be the final straw. And, of course, many people were already considering separation or divorce before the world shifted on its axis. Others had already instructed their solicitor.
So What Are The Options For People Considering Separation or Divorce During Lockdown?
The key message is that lawyers and courts remain open for business. The 10-strong specialist family law team at Goughs has been working effectively from home for several weeks now, and we have been busy looking after our existing clients and taking new instructions. We are conducting meetings with our clients via Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp and the trusty telephone. We may even meet a client in person subject to strict screening and observing social distancing. All our office switchboards are staffed, and each lawyer’s direct line automatically connects to their mobile phone. We are as accessible to our clients as we’ve always been.
What may surprise many people is that court business has continued. Some courts are temporarily closed (eg Salisbury); some are staffed but not open to the public (eg Bath); and some are fully operational subject to social distancing (eg Swindon and Bristol). Our family team has even conducted a number of ‘remote’ court hearings via telephone and video link, which has proved very successful and prevented delay in progressing our clients’ cases.
There’s no problem with starting new divorce cases. This can be done by paper-based or electronic means. We have found that starting proceedings electronically is likely to be significantly faster – divorce petitions are being turned around in a couple of weeks, whereas paper-based cases are unfortunately taking a lot longer.
And there’s the rub – whilst the courts are open for business, it’s certainly not business as usual. Unsurprisingly, divorce is taking a lot longer to get from start to finish, whatever method we use. Every stage involves delay due to the court service having had to reorganise its resources. We and our clients are having to be patient. However, slower progress is still progress.
Your Next Steps To Divorce During Lockdown
If you are thinking about speaking to a solicitor but are put off by the current challenges we all face, don’t hesitate to contact Goughs. You’ll find we’re as friendly, approachable and available as always. We’ll be able to get you started on the road to divorce if that’s what you want, and see you through till the end. We can deal with any concerns you have relating to finances, children, domestic abuse and all other aspects of family law. We’re proactive and imaginative, making sure that the pandemic isn’t preventing us from driving matters forward with the courts and other solicitors, finding creative solutions, and supporting our clients all the way