Separation, divorce and COVID-19

Written by Richard Bebb, 3rd of September 2020

‘Unprecedented’ has been one of the most familiar words in recent months. It certainly applied to our domestic and family arrangements during lockdown. Most couples had never had to spend so long in each other’s company. Working from home; one or both being furloughed; home schooling the kids; social distancing from other families – these all created a real pressure-cooker environment in even the most harmonious household.

Inevitably those pressures were greater where couples were already having some difficulties – and, unfortunately, for some it was 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 their options?

Most lawyers remained open for business during lockdown. From late March the 10-strong specialist family law team at Goughs worked exclusively and effectively from home for many weeks, and we reopened our office doors on 15th June. Our lawyers now spend a mixture of their time working safely from the office and at home, and lockdown didn’t prevent us from helping our clients in any way. We now conduct meetings face to face (observing strict safety guidelines) and also via Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp and the trusty telephone.

We are as accessible to our clients as we’ve always been, and crucially we know that we can continue to be so, even if lockdown returns, because of our success in operating remotely during recent months. Court business has continued. Our family team had to adapt very quickly to new ways of working – a steep learning curve!

Courts moved to ‘remote’ hearings via telephone and video link virtually overnight. In recent months we have conducted a large number of remote hearings involving our clients, which has proved very successful and prevented delay in progressing their cases. Dealing with court documentation electronically has become the norm. Emerging from lockdown, the courts have cautiously begun to return to holding hearings in court buildings where really necessary, but remote hearings continue, and we don’t think we’ll ever return to the traditional system where every court appearance involves travelling to and attending a court centre.

Of course, court resources have been greatly stretched during this difficult period. Starting new divorces, applying for orders relating to children, and issuing proceedings to sort out finances arising from any relationship breakdown can all be done online, which is significantly faster and more efficient than relying on a paper-based process, because it’s less resource-heavy and easier for the court infrastructure to manage.

Nonetheless, we and our clients have had to be patient, and that continues as the court system settles into its own ‘new normal’. However, slower progress is still progress. 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, drawing on our knowledge and experience, which has been considerably expanded since March as we’ve tackled the new challenges faced by our clients in this new world.

How to deal with bitter disputes about childcare in a period of hard lockdown; exploring new financial solutions for clients whose circumstances have massively changed; dealing with future uncertainty whilst still enabling final outcomes to be found so that our clients can move on with their lives – all these are now part of our portfolio of skills.

We always provide tailored advice to suit you and your individual situation. 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.

To book your free and confidential 30 minute consultation, please click here to request a meeting, email newstart@goughs.co.uk or speak to a member of our family team on 01249 712193.