Separation & Divorce during COVID-19

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Article

22 April, 2020

Divorce itself is very stressful. Emotional and financial pressure can take its toll but if you then throw into the mix the ongoing pandemic with all its uncertainties, this simply adds to stress levels.

At the moment, whilst Solicitors are still taking instructions to commence divorce proceedings and petitions can be issued, the reality is that day to day, they are not the sort of cases that are being prioritised by the Courts - understandably. The Courts are dealing with the emergency applications, particularly where there has been violence or allegations of violence and where there are young children who may be at risk.

Straight forward divorce proceedings therefore are, at the bottom of the list of priorities, which is as it should be. This does not, however, help anybody who has finally made the massive decision that this is a road they want or need to go down.

Then, following a divorce, of course, parties tend to try and resolve finances. Again, Solicitors are still taking instructions and can have telephone appointments with clients and their opponents as well as sending emails backwards and forwards.

Some mediators are still offering a telephone service but, the waiting list is quite high. If parties cannot resolve matters between the two of them and if Solicitors are unable to assist within correspondence with negotiations etc., then ultimately a referral to mediation would ordinarily be made and if that did not work, thereafter to the Courts.

However, at the moment, there are so many uncertainties. Before the pandemic, you were pretty confident that the valuation of the property obtained from an independent charter surveyor/valuer would be accurate. Up to date business accounts or a forensic accountants report of a family business could also be relied on. The present situation, however, has sent finances into tailspin. Self-employed parties are struggling to find regular work to provide them with a regular income. Shares and investments are plummeting. House prices at the moment seem to be holding their own but, we do not know whether that will dip at any point in the future. Mortgage companies have stopped making offers, so even if a party reaches an agreement, the reality is they are not going to be able to sell the family home and each move on to new properties.

There are so many uncertainties in relation to divorce and finances at the moment, which as indicated above, can only add to a couple's stress levels.

It is heartening, however, that some FDR hearings are going ahead, albeit remotely, and hopefully in the coming weeks this will increase. Spending money on Solicitors and Court fees at a time when your income maybe uncertain for the next couple of months is understandably a worry.

It is often best to have an appointment with a Solicitor to discuss options and what sort of information will be needed, so that at least you can be preparing in advance before making any momentous decision with a view to starting divorce and then financial proceedings.

Once the restrictions are lifted, it is anticipated that the family lawyers will see a surge in new cases. Being cooped up for months on end for a couple who may already have a fractious relationship can only mean additional strain.

To get advice at this early stage therefore as to what can be done, whether some things may be left for a couple of months, or what sort of preparation you could do to help the situation may be of benefit and may assist in easing any concerns.

Visit our dedicated COVID19 page here where we answer some frequently asked questions.

For more information contact Judith O'Brien in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01772 220022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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