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Managing a Divorce during Lockdown

Those managing a divorce during lockdown or considering divorce will have some questions about how proceedings will be affected as the pandemic extends across the UK.

Below I have outlined some of the issues couples will be faced with over the next few months and possibly longer, and what you should try and do to navigate those issues.

Can I still get a divorce or separation whilst in lockdown?

For those individuals who are in a marriage or relationship they don’t want to be in, this can be a very difficult and sensitive time, especially given how much attention has been spent upon how to deal with self-isolation and social distancing.

It is important to note – and be assured – that as family lawyers we can assist and advise you on how to manage the process of separation and support you through that. There will be many likely scenarios that we can discuss and we can talk you through your options during this ongoing period of uncertainty.

The simple answer is, yes you can get a divorce or separation during lockdown.

How can I contact a divorce lawyer?

When managing a divorce during lockdown, it is important to understand that most lawyers are continuing to work and will be conducting meetings via Skype, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. This is different to the traditional face to face method, however it may provide more comfort in that you will not have to travel to the solicitor’s office. If your spouse is present at home, telephone calls can be arranged easily at times convenient to you. It is important that you contact your lawyer to see what method works for you. We will be flexible in our approach and want to work with you during this difficult period.

For those couples that are still living in the same household but that are separated, this will be an extremely difficult time, especially if there are children in the home as well. When couples separate, they both want a fresh start and, ideally, two homes. For those with resources or the ability to physically separate this can be achieved as long as both parties understand that the asset pot and income available may reduce slightly by having two sets of accommodation to run. However this may be the best thing to do for their own health and so worth doing.

However, this could be difficult during the current lockdown period due to the government guidance. It is, of course, changing daily but they are encouraging all bar non- essential moves to be postponed, including those renting; suggesting that if a move cannot be delayed and it is, for example, into an empty property, then you must adhere to the social distancing requirements. This will not be easy if you need assistance to physically move.

Where a move is simply not possible, and it is safe for you to remain in the family home, then allowing each other some space within the home is imperative. What you should think about is the benefits of demonstrating to your children a level of good communication and being able to co-parent which will be positive for them to witness.

What happens if I am currently going through a divorce?

Whilst court processes and the traditional negotiation through solicitors continue, there may be some delays with regard to any area where you require other professionals, such as a valuation and instruction of experts.  At the moment the courts are prioritising certain cases, for example where there is an urgent element and safety or welfare of individuals at risk.

However, in the majority of cases things are continuing as normal and solicitors are still trying to find an amicable and fair solution between individuals to assist them with managing a divorce during lockdown. Alternative methods to Court are being encouraged and it does not mean that just because we are in this pandemic that your case will not progress. It is important that you speak to a lawyer about the various methods available to suit your circumstances.

Whilst each case is fact specific, there will be different levels of need. Some individuals may wish to pause the process given the current financial uncertainty and the possible reduction in asset portfolios and pension values. However, on the flip side, in relation to how long will this go on for, there is no clear evidence as to when the economy will recover. Others may wish to take into account the same position in trying to force through a settlement whilst the assets may be lower in value. It is important that you seek legal advice from a specialist family lawyer so that you can discuss your circumstances and be given the right advice to see you through this process.

If you would like any advice managing a divorce during lockdown or other family law issues, please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialist family lawyers.

Stacey qualified as a Solicitor in 2011 having completed her training with Hine Solicitors in Beaconsfield. Stacey has since worked for the Legal 500 firm, Duncan Lewis Solicitors in London. Stacey has extensive experience in all areas of family law including advising clients in relation to co-habitation, divorce, matrimonial finances, pre & post-nuptial agreements. Stacey was delighted to join specialist practice Hawkins Family Law described by The Legal 500 (2019) as "a very professional team that delivers a high-class service and has strength-in-depth from senior to junior level") in February 2016 and has considerable experience resolving children issues whether they are in relation to where a child should live or issues regarding contact.

Stacey has represented a number of parents in proceedings before the High Court including International Relocation and Child Abduction matters. Stacey is a strong advocate and is an experienced Collaborative lawyer and is also a Resolution Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer across three areas; Complex Financial Remedies, Cohabitation & TOLATA and Private Children Law.

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