May 4, 2020

The outbreak of Coronavirus in the UK has had a knock on effect on many individuals and businesses. The increased time at home and reduced pay has put a strain on some families, which in turn has resulted in a number of questions.

Here are some of the key questions we’re being asked…

Can I start divorce proceedings during lockdown?

Yes. You can still start divorce proceedings during lockdown if you have decided that your marriage has broken down beyond repair.  

Terry Jones Solicitors start our separation and divorce cases with a free telephone call in order to understand your position and situation, and to give you a chance to familiarise yourself with us. We can then use email or post to get the relevant documentation, but we are always available via the telephone. In the majority of divorce cases, an agreement can be made and there is no need to attend court in person.

You are also able to start divorce proceedings if you and your partner are living in the same household, but are leading separate lives.

What do I need to start divorce proceedings and how do we progress/discuss matters if we can’t come into the office?

Our solicitors are working remotely and are available during normal working hours. While the social distancing restrictions mean we are unable to facilitate face to face meetings, we can discuss matters via video call, telephone, email or even WhatsApp.

We can arrange an initial conversation at a time that suits you, using your preferred method of communication. Once we have gone through the relevant identity checks and your file has been opened, we can contact your partner and begin the divorce process. The only thing we will need as a hard copy is your original marriage certificate, which you can post to our office and we will return it as soon as it’s been verified.

I’m already going through a divorce, will there be a delay?

The courts are open and working, although there might be a slight delay to in the administration as many court staff are working remotely. The court will still able to deal with the divorce process and if an application is classed as urgent then they will prioritise accordingly.

Can we still progress with the financial aspects of the divorce during lockdown?

Yes. Our offices are open to accept post and scan documents as required. We will ensure that the paperwork needed to assist you in reaching a financial agreement can be completed and exchanged with the other party. For those just starting the financial aspect of divorce, we are able to prepare and discuss proposals with you as usual.

Is now the right time?

It may not be the right time to come to a financial agreement as you or your ex-partner’s income may have reduced substantially during the current situation. This could be as a result of either furlough leave, working at reduced level of income, redundancy or a business asset that has seen a substantial drop in turnover. If this is the case it may not be advisable to conclude matters at the moment, but this is your decision.

If any financial court hearings are necessary then they are currently being held remotely via video conference.

What should we do if we have a child arrangement order?

Amid the lockdown and the restriction of movement of people, the government has stated that parents are permitted to leave their homes to facilitate contact with the other parent.

If you are both in agreement about a change to your childcare arrangements given the current circumstances, then you can of course adapt your arrangement. However, we would recommend that you record the change in writing or email, and agree when these changes will be reviewed.

If you have a court order, then you should continue to abide by insofar as possible. A valid reason not to follow the court order could be to follow the medical advice to self-isolate. The courts have also said that if there is a cause for the provisions in a court order to be varied then the “spirit” of the court order should still be followed, such as a video call in place of visitation.

Can I start an application for a child arrangement order during lockdown?

Yes. The courts are open for business so if you believe that such an application is needed, it can be made. However, you will still be required to meet with a local mediator, which can be facilitated by video call.

If an application to the court is still required after mediation, then the courts are also using video conferencing for court hearings to ensure that there is minimal delay.

Is there anything else I should be thinking about if I am separated/already going through a divorce during the pandemic?

While it may sound morbid, you may want to consider making a Will if you don’t have one already, or if you should think about amending it following a separation from your spouse/civil partner.

You are still able to write and finalise a Will during lockdown. We are utilising video conferencing and will make sure your Will is prepared and approved without delay.

You might also want to check who would receive any pension benefit in the event of your death. You can usually do this by making a quick call to the pension department administrators. If you need to change who will receive your pension benefit, your provider will send you out a form called an “expression of wishes form.” You will then be able to stipulate who you would want to inherit any pension provision. Whilst the pension trustees are not bound to follow your requests, they do use it as a point of reference.

If you have any other questions or would like to talk to us directly, please don’t hesitate to contact Terry Jones Solicitors on 01743 285 888 or email enquiries@terry-jones.co.uk

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