Family Law during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Court Proceedings (existing and new) and Family Law cases

The court system is still functioning and there is strong public interest in keeping the family justice system working during the Coronavirus pandemic. Most hearings can be dealt with by telephone or video conferencing and cases can continue to be progressed by email between Solicitors and their clients. In some situations, a physical hearing will be necessary and these will be considered on a case by case basis and subject to the health needs and requirements of the parties. If one party cannot attend because they are vulnerable or are isolating but the other party can attend then the vulnerable/isolation party will be able to attend via telephone or video link. If a telephone or video hearing is not appropriate and nor is a physical hearing the case will be adjourned, but the courts will be keen to set out a timetable for the onward progression of the case.

It is still possible to issue new proceedings at court – including Divorce proceedings, Civil partnership dissolution proceeds , property dispute proceedings and all applications in relation to Children.

Solicitors practices are still operating and the family law department here at Morrish Solicitors is fully functioning. New instructions on all family law related matters to include Divorce, Separation, Civil Partnership Dissolution, and matters involving children can be received. Initial client appointments will be held via telephone appointments or by video platform to include Microsoft teams, Skype or Zoom. Existing cases are being progressed as normal.

Child Arrangements – Separated Parents

The Government guidance for families where the parents do not live in the same household is that the children under 18 can travel between homes for the usual visits.

But how do you arrange for the children to spend their time now that most are not at school and are likely to remain off school for some time to come. What arrangements should apply -term time arrangements or holiday arrangements?

These are difficult times for all and we are all in uncharted territory. A common sense approach should be taken and communication between the parents is key.

Home Schooling

Children who are off school have more free time and therefore in one sense have more time to spend with their other parent. However will in all likelihood have a timetable and curriculum to follow for home learning. Learning may be disturbed if the children break off from the school week to spend more time at their other parent’s home and may prefer for the normal term time arrangements to remain in place. We recommend parents should agree an extension of the children’s time at their other parents home when they visit, in particular as travel between two homes ought to be limited to reduce the risks of transmission. As with many areas of family law there is no right or wrong answer in this situation and sensible and rational discussions between the parents is advised

Each parent will have to monitor their own, their children’s and their wider family’s symptoms. The children’s contact with each parent will be affected by any development of symptoms and in these circumstances both parents must adhere to the government guidelines for such situation. We recommend putting a plan together, that both parents agree to now, in the event one parent or the children have symptoms.

If you would like further advice on your child’s arrangements please contact our Family Law expert, Noelle Heath.