Divorce and Separation during the Covid pandemic

29th October 2020

Divorce and Separation during the Covid pandemic

Our family law team have comprised some of their most commonly asked questions to help put your mind at ease during these uncertain and confusing times. We hope this Q&A helps but if you have any further questions, please email [email protected] or call us on 01473 211 121.

Can I still get divorced during the pandemic?

Yes, you can still file for divorce. The Court has introduced a system for divorces to be filed via an online portal. This is helping to streamline the divorce process particularly where the financial arrangements can be agreed between the parties.

Paper based divorce petitions are taking much longer to be processed and therefore we would advise that divorces are filed online were possible.

What is the procedure to get divorced?

A divorce petition is filed with the Court to start the process. The Court will write to the other party (the respondent) to ask them to log in to the online portal to confirm their details, that they have received the divorce petition and whether they intend to defend the divorce.

If the divorce is undefended then the petitioning party will be able to apply for the Decree Nisi (the first order which confirms that they are entitled to a divorce). It is then open to the petitioner to apply for the Decree Absolute (the final order) once at least 6 weeks have elapsed from the date of the Decree Nisi.

How are financial arrangements being dealt with during the pandemic?

Where parties can agree financial arrangements, we can prepare a Consent Order to reflect the agreed terms of the Financial Settlement. This is then sent to Court for approval and parties are not required to attend a hearing.

Where financial arrangements cannot be agreed and an application to Court is required in order to resolve the financial arrangements, the Court is experiencing some delays. This is largely because Court staff and Judges are having to work from home and prioritise urgent cases, such as those involving domestic abuse or child protection. Hearings are therefore taking place remotely where possible either by a telephone conference call or by video link.

The more complex cases and hearings are still being dealt with by way of a physical hearing at Court with social distancing measures in place. We are able to offer advice and representation in respect of all types of hearings within contested family proceedings.

If I want a divorce, do I have to get a financial settlement?

Strictly speaking it is possible to simply file for a divorce without a financial settlement. However it is important to remember that until a Financial Settlement has been made, it is open to either party to make a claim for financial provision at any time. It is therefore worth seeking legal advice on how to conclude financial arrangements between you.

Financially, is it a good time to get divorced?

The pandemic has caused considerable financial pressure on many people. For those thinking about divorce or formalising arrangements following the end of a relationship during the Covid pandemic, it can be a daunting prospect to consider what is the best way forward and what the financial implications of separation may be. However, it is worth seeking legal advice at an early stage to get a clearer idea of the financial provision you may be entitled to.

For those who currently hold assets, the financial downturn may be perceived as an advantage when it comes to divorce and securing a favourable financial settlement. Due to the Corona Virus pandemic, many assets and property may well have reduced in value. Businesses may not be considered as valuable, investments are likely to have depreciated in value and some pensions will now be worth less then they may otherwise be.

It may therefore be worth addressing the financial arrangements at this stage so that when the economy eventually improves and the value of the assets increases again this may leave you better off than if you divorce in a more stable economic time.

What should I do if I am thinking about divorce?

If you are thinking about divorce, please contact our family law team on 01473 211 121 to schedule an initial fixed fee appointment or email [email protected] to request a call back. During the first appointment the team will take the time to understand your situation and talk you through the process and next steps.

We can offer advice on divorce and other family law issues via telephone or video conference call.

 

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