Divorce During COVID-19 Lockdown – Part 1

ASK THE EXPERTS

Divorce During COVID-19 Lockdown

In a series of blogs, we are putting questions to our expert lawyers here at Price Slater Gawne to provide information during these unusual times. Today, we are asking questions of our Family Law Consultant, Carole Nettleton about relationships and divorce during COVID-19 lockdown.

 

1. Can I start my divorce proceedings during lockdown?

The answer to that is “Yes”. At Price Slater Gawne we are working remotely. It has been our practice to encourage flexible and remote working for some time now, so we have been able to move into a lockdown situation quite seamlessly.

We are able to take instructions for a new divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership by phone and email. However, we are able to conduct client meetings by Facetime, Skype or Zoom. We use DocuSign to make the remote signing of documents easy for our clients.

Our systems are set up to ensure that we can continue as before lockdown so there has not been much change for us. The only difference has been that we cannot meet clients in person for an initial interview, but we do have access to all virtual meeting sites so we haven’t yet found it to be a problem.

In any event, our clients come from all over the country and internationally so we don’t always get to meet face-to-face.

 

2. Are the Divorce Courts closed?

No – divorce petitions can still be sent to the regional centres to be processed and most courts are still open. “Access to justice” – which includes family law procedures – has been designated an essential service during Covid-19 and applications are being dealt with as usual.

For us, the regional divorce centre is the Family Court at Liverpool which is still open and accepting new divorce/dissolution petitions.

The court has assured family lawyers that they are doing their utmost to ensure that there are no significant delays in arranging for petitions to be issued, however, we think there may be some delay ( time will tell how much ) due to staff sickness.

Some courts have closed temporarily but the main centres remain open.

 

3. If my divorce has started, will it be put on hold until lockdown has ended?

No. We have been reassured by the Family Court at Liverpool and by divorce centre enquiries that all divorces are being progressed.

If we have made an application for Decree Nisi (the approval stage in the proceedings) or an application for Decree Absolute (the final decree which dissolves your marriage) then these are being processed in the usual way.

We suspect that due to staff sickness and a reduction in staff numbers due to social distancing there may be some delay, but hopefully, this will not be significant.

 

4. Can I see my divorce solicitor during lockdown?

Yes – but virtually via Facetime, Zoom or Skype.

At the moment most solicitors are working from home remotely. Some lawyers have been classed as “key workers” but here at Price Slater Gawne we are taking the safety of our staff and clients seriously; so our office at 1 The Downs, Altrincham is closed until we are permitted to re-open.

Some divorce solicitors have struggled to make working adjustments during Covid-19, as their systems and culture are not set up for remote working.

Here at Price Slater Gawne we are familiar and experienced in remote working and are always happy to see our clients virtually.

 

5. Will my solicitor have all of my information if their offices are closed?

Well…..if you are with Price Slater Gawne, they will.

We have long-established and developed remote working practices in place, so all of our letters, court documents – in fact, anything that is relevant to your case – is not stored within paper files, but is contained within our fully-encrypted digital case management system.

We have access to all of the information needed to progress your case and have found that lockdown has not impacted on our working practices. We were ahead of the technology curve before the Covid-19 crisis hit and this has paid off for us and our clients who we can confidently say have not had any disruption to the service we offer.

If you happen to be with another firm of solicitors, you might not have been so fortunate. A large percentage of solicitors were behind the times and did not promote flexible, paperless working practices – so they may have found some inability to access information and a delay in progressing your case. It will inevitably vary from firm to firm as to the access to information when offices are closed.

 


 

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:

⋅ Carole Nettleton
Tel: 07958 028069
Email: carole.nettleton@psg-law.co.uk

⋅ Nicholas Clough
Tel: 07538 385956
Email: nicholas.clough@psg-law.co.uk