Covid-19 and Family Law in 2020

PUBLISHED 24.11.20

 

2020 has been a strange year and we have all had to learn new ways of living, working and seeing our families. But what was it like if you were in the middle of or considering separating from your partner?

Despite the rules of lockdown, it was made clear that lockdown did not prevent children from spending time with each parent, even if that was in separate households. This was one of the exceptions to lockdown to ensure that children could still spend time with their parents and was the case even when the parents lived some distance away from each other.

This has obviously caused difficulties, particularly where one parent was shielding or perhaps worked in the frontline for the NHS. In those cases, parents were advised to, if necessary, come up with alternative arrangements such as video contact if face to face contact could not happen.

Inevitably, there were cases where the parents disagreed on what time the child should spend with each parent whilst in lockdown.

In the same way that any dispute about arrangements for children can end up in court, so too did these issues. The court had to consider whether a parent had behaved reasonably in changing or suspending contact in their particular circumstances.

Courts were still open during lockdown and remain so during the tiered restrictions around the country. The way the court has dealt with these matters remains the same; the procedures have just had to change.

The welfare of the child was and still is the court’s paramount concern.

In response to the issues the pandemic has caused, all court hearings in the Family Court became remote hearings. This meant that a hearing took place either by telephone or by video conferencing.

At Dunn & Baker Solicitors, we have offered our clients a clean room so that they have been able to attend our offices to give evidence at their court hearing using our technology. This has been particularly important if they have not had the broadband capacity where they live to attend a video hearing.

As solicitors, we have also used other methods to communicate with our client’s during the hearing when we needed e.g. to discuss a particular point raised by the other party. This might have been via email or text.

Whatever the obstacles, the process has continued, matters have been dealt with and orders made.

So what will happen in 2021?

Court hearings will still continue to be heard remotely using technology. At some point, the courts will start requiring parties to attend their hearings but it is not known yet when this might be.

However, the biggest change to Family law in decades will also take place with the introduction of the “no fault divorce” which will commence in autumn 2021. This will remove the need for one party to prove either adultery or unreasonable behaviour as a ground to get an immediate divorce. Currently if you wish to divorce on the basis of no fault, you need to be separated for a period of 2 years.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of Family Law, please contact a member of our Family Team on:

Exeter 01392 285000    Cullompton 01884 33818     Newton Abbot 01626 330127

 

Please note, our office hours over the festive period are as follows:

Wednesday 23rd December 2020 – Open      Thursday 24th December 2020 to Sunday 3rd January 2021 – Closed      Monday 4th January 2020 – Open