Coronavirus COVID-19 Q&As
During these exceptional times all of our Family Law Solicitors are keeping in regular contact with their clients and have been continuing to take instructions.
We are working within all the Government rules and guidance and are here to help you.
Most Court hearings are still taking place. They are taking place via remote hearings using telephone or video conferencing and you can still attend in this way. In all cases the Court and parties are considering whether this should happen as well as whether is it possible for this to happen. Speak to your solicitor for advice if you have a hearing that is listed to go ahead during lockdown.
The Local Authority are still making applications for a Care Order where they feel the circumstances of the child(ren) requires this. Existing proceedings are continuing. Vulnerable children and their safety has been an issue during coronavirus. The Local Authority are still undertaking statutory visits and ongoing child protection work is continuing.
There have been some delays that are unavoidable, either if it is necessary for a court appointed expert to do face to face appointments to complete assessments, or if the facts in a particular case mean the hearing must go ahead as a face to face hearing.
Most Court Hearings are still going ahead. They are taking place via remote hearings using telephone and video conferencing. However in each case a decision is being made as to whether this should happen as well as whether it is possible for this to happen. Parents and other family members who are made party to the case are always invited to attend and the Hearings go ahead as if they were taking place in the court building (in private) . If you have specific questions your Family Law Solicitor will be able to assist with this.
This will be classed as a legitimate journey under the ‘Stay at Home’ government rules but remember to observe social distancing yourself. The Government guidelines state: “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
If you have a Child Arrangements Order then this should be adhered to as it will help with consistency for your child. If there is no Order in place, you must put the welfare of your child before any issues you may have with the other parent when making this decision.
Family Courts Orders are not optional and should be adhered to. If there is no Order in place, you must put the welfare of your child before any adult issues. This can become more complicated if you have a blended family with children from your home visiting different households.
You need to start from the position that the Order must be abided by. However as adult(s) with parental responsibility communication is important here. Do one of you, someone in your houseshold(s) or the child(ren) have medical concerns? If agreement can be reached the Order can be temporarily varied provide this is by agreement. We would advise that you record any agreement in writing – an email here will suffice and agree when/in what circumstances the normal arrangements will start again.
No, so long as you comply with the updated guidance.
If you comply with the guidance and the Stay at Home rules face to face visiting and staying contact can still continue as normal. However, if this is not possible, be creative. You can agree suitable other arrangements. Contact between the child and the other parent could be by Face-Time, WhatsApp Face-Time, Skype, Zoom or other video connection or, if that is not possible, by telephone. If your child is very young, the parent not seeing the child might want to record their voice reading a story or singing a song so the child can still hear their voice, or send or receive photos. Even an email reports on what they have been up to is better than nothing. This is about helping the child get through lockdown and what is best for them.
They can still be issued by your solicitor in the usual way and the court is accepting applications online. Our Family Law Solicitors are working remotely, but are ensuring our usual service standards are maintained. We have a physical presence in our office to ensure hard copy documents can still be sent and received where necessary.
The Courts are still dealing with financial applications on divorce but they have been given the lowest priority by HMCTS. This means that the work will be done if it can be. There are alternatives to Court including mediation and arbitration which can be considered in trying to bring your case to a speedy and fair conclusion.