ASK THE EXPERTS
Divorce During COVID-19 Lockdown
The process of divorce can raise a number of questions at any time, however, during the COVID-19 lockdown, we have received a number of questions from clients regarding how their proceedings may be affected.
Our Family Law Consultant, Carole Nettleton has answered some of the recent frequently asked questions surrounding relationships and divorce.
1. Will my divorce take longer during lockdown?
Possibly. A straightforward divorce usually takes 5-6 months to progress from the initial stages (i.e. filing the divorce petition at the family court) to obtaining the Decree Absolute. Obviously that timescale would be extended if the other party did not cooperate or if you were advised to delay applying for Decree Absolute until finances are resolved.
The regional divorce centres have assured family lawyers that they are doing all they can to ensure there is no delay and that timescales are running as usual. However, we suspect that there may be a slightly longer timescale due to staff sickness and staff reduction due to social distancing.
These are unprecedented times and we think it would be unrealistic to expect the court systems to be operating to pre-lockdown levels, but the family courts have advised that they are doing all they can to keep cases moving.
2. I have financial proceedings ongoing at the Family Court; will any scheduled hearings be cancelled?
Again, this is a possibility, however, the family courts are attempting to deal with as many hearings as possible via Skype, Zoom or telephone.
We are aware that the courts are trying to deal with as many hearings as possible via the use of paperwork, however, some hearings will inevitably have to be adjourned and rescheduled. Our advice would be to check your individual case with the court.
3. Can Mediation be carried out remotely?
Yes – most mediation services are offering mediation sessions remotely via Zoom, Skype or Facetime, so if your mediation provider is offering that service then mediation will be possible. Many mediation services were offering remote mediation prior to lockdown but again it will vary.
At Price Slater Gawne, our family solicitor Jackie Rawcliffe is a trained Mediator and Nicholas Clough is a trained Mediator and Collaborator, so we can offer mediation and collaborative sessions via Skype, Facetime or Zoom.
Please contact us if you wish to consider mediation or collaborative sessions remotely as we can help.
4. I want to attend court upon pronouncement of Decree Nisi – can I do so?
Yes, you can, but it is important that you do not just turn up at Court to deal with any issues that relate to the pronouncement of Decree without having spoken to the relevant court centre divorce office staff beforehand. You should contact the Court in advance and request attendance.
The court can then allocate a telephone hearing or a virtual hearing via Skype or Zoom.
Usually, most couples do not attend court when Decree Nisi is pronounced. All that happens is that you and your partner’s names are read out from a list by a Court Officer and this step is procedural.
Sometimes, the person who has started the petition – particularly if the ground used was one of the “Fault-based” grounds i.e. adultery or unreasonable behaviour – seeks decree costs from the person who has received the petition.
If there is an issue about costs then, provided the correct notices have been sent within the appropriate time limits, a respondent can attend on the pronouncement of Decree Nisi to object to having to pay costs.
This is usually the only reason why a party would attend the court upon pronouncement of Decree Nisi. But you will need to contact the relevant court office to check if there would be a face to face hearing – we suspect not – and that matters would be dealt with via telephone or virtual means.
5. Are divorce rates expected to increase post lockdown?
Some couples who may have been contemplating divorce prior to lockdown may find themselves heading down the route of separation sooner than they planned. They may find it a struggle to adjust being housebound together and that the experience is too challenging.
It will certainly be interesting to look at the statistics based on previous years when they are published.
At Price Slater Gawne, we understand that it can be very difficult to make the decision to bring a marriage or civil partnership to an end. Yet you can rest assured that our expert solicitors with over 50 years of combined experience will ensure that your case is dealt with in a prompt, efficient and cost-effective manner.
If you wish to discuss your own particular circumstances regarding divorce during Covid-19 lockdown or find that the lockdown has made your situation worse, please contact one of our divorce experts for a free, no-obligation discussion to establish how we can help you.
During the lockdown period, we can correspond with you and arrange interviews via phone, Skype, Facetime or Zoo. We also appreciate that verbal correspondence may be difficult, so we’ve also provided email details: