Easter Lockdown: Tips from our Family Law Team

April 9, 2020, By Slater Heelis

The Coronavirus pandemic has turned normal life upside down.

Everyone is affected, and the vast majority of us are now on lockdown, with our time outside of the home limited to essential shopping and exercise.

The measures that have been introduced are vital to save as many lives as possible, but the strain caused to many families should not be underestimated.

For families experiencing relationship breakdown (whether it is a marriage or civil partnership, or a cohabiting relationship) the strain of being cooped up is likely to be significantly more difficult to deal with, with the results being increased stress, anxiety, other personal difficulties, and the impact of all of these on the children. Financial pressures in the form of reduced income, potential redundancy, and furlough leave will likewise be taking their toll.

The lockdown will also cause acute problems for victims of domestic abuse, likely increasing the risk of harm.

What can I do if I am at risk of domestic abuse during lockdown?

If you are at risk of domestic abuse, Government announcements have made it clear that you can leave the home to seek refuge.

However, this may often easier be said that done.  It is vital to call 999 if you are in immediate danger. If you cannot speak out loud, you can call 999 and then press 55 to confirm that the call is a genuine emergency. The police have wide-ranging powers in respect of domestic abuse, and it is important to remember that domestic abuse includes all forms of abuse, including financial and emotional abuse. The police can also take action in respect of controlling and/or coercive behaviour.

Domestic abuse charity lines and websites are still operating, and we have summarised the relevant contact details below:-

The Family Court continues to operate, and we are experts at applying for protective orders on behalf of our clients. To contact us about domestic abuse, please call 0161 969 3131 or via our website https://www.slaterheelis.co.uk/.

My ex and I are separated: what do we do about the arrangements for our children?

Again, there is clear Government guidance that children may see both of their parents during the lockdown.

Our practical advice is that the arrangements should be carried out as safely as possible, to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

If you do not feel that it is safe for your children to see the other parent, then you should explain this clearly, and ensure that appropriate alternative arrangements are made (such as spending time with the other parent by Skype or Facetime, for example). If the arrangements for your children are set out in a court order, and you do not follow the terms of the order, this will amount to a breach of the order, and the other parent could in theory apply to the Family Court to enforce. However, provided that any variations during the lockdown period are communicated and explained clearly to the other parent, with as much notice as possible, and alternative temporary arrangements put in place, it is possible that such an approach could be viewed as a persuasive ‘reasonable excuse’ for not complying with the original order in the event of an enforcement application being made by the other parent.

It should also be noted that the majority of contact centres have been closed during the lockdown, however you should ensure that you check the position with your contact centre first before making alternative arrangements.

If you would like advice about the arrangements for your children, please contact us on 0161 969 3131 or via our website https://www.slaterheelis.co.uk/.

My ex and I are in the process of reaching a financial settlement: how will the pandemic affect this?

Valuations of property, pensions, and various other assets will all potentially be affected by the economic impact of the virus.

It is safe to say that the pandemic is an unprecedented event, and that it will potentially have a significant impact on financial settlements arising from divorce. A large number of people have lost their jobs and businesses. Likewise many people’s incomes have reduced. Although various support measures have been introduced by the Government, these will not necessarily mean that your or your ex’s financial position will be the same as it was one month ago.

The circumstances of every financial settlement are different, and specific to the individuals involved. If you have recently entered into a financial settlement and are concerned that the settlement was arrived at on the basis of information provided before the pandemic, or have any other concerns relating to financial matters arising from divorce, please feel free to discuss this with us by calling 0161 969 3131 or via our website https://www.slaterheelis.co.uk/

And finally…

We would like you to know that we remain open during the lockdown period, and committed to helping and advising in these uncertain times. We are fully able to continue to progress cases despite lockdown measures, and are fully equipped to have meetings via telephone, Skype, Facetime, and other apps.

If you are affected by any of the issues featured in this article, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 969 3131 or https://www.slaterheelis.co.uk/.