Family Law Advice during Coronavirus and the Covid-19 lockdown

 

In these unsettling times we remain available to provide guidance and support to those struggling with the dual challenges of the Coronavirus lockdown and relationship or family issues.

Whether providing immediate legal advice, counselling, mediation or other dispute resolution solutions, our services remain fully operational and available to help you through the issues you face. We can provide online solutions, telephone and video consultations, giving you the reassurance of knowing where you stand and what your options may be in terms of taking things forward. For further information on how we can work by your side to resolve your family law issues now, take a look at How We Work With You Now.

During these incredibly challenging times we will continue to balance our exceptional legal expertise with care and compassion, allowing us to deliver solutions that benefit you for long term, while carefully managing the current unprecedented circumstances. Read more about our distinctive approach here.

Personal Safety →

Sadly for many, personal safety during the Coronavirus lockdown is a huge concern. This is particularly so for those who are in the midst of coercive or abusive situations.

Fortunately, there is a lot of help and advice available to meet a broad range of needs in this area. We will work with you to understand what options might be available to you at this worrying time. We have launched a free legal advice helpline for your questions about domestic abuse and the law relating to children and parenting issues. Further details can be found here.

Beyond dealing with the immediate crisis, longer-term solutions will be needed for you, and any children. We will work by your side to determine how best to create the new safe start in which you can thrive.

We are experts in advising on the full range of issues flowing from abuse in relationships and will guide and protect you through the difficulties you may face. Read more about the support which we can offer here.

FLiP Director Helen Greenfield has a particular expertise in helping those who have been affected by domestic abuse. For further information, please contact Helen at E: hg@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.

You might find our recent blogs on domestic abuse of interest: further blogs and insights can be found here.

Managing Relationship Stress →

The stresses of lockdown, whilst seemingly bringing out the best in many people, may also put strain on relationships closer to home.

Isolated with our families, we may have time to really take stock about what lies ahead. For some, radical changes in the relationship may need to be contemplated. Not least whether the relationship is still working for everyone.

The steps you take at these “crossroad” moments are life defining and need careful management and great thought.

Speaking to family or friends, however well-meaning, may not always be the right way forward in the heat of these moments.

Talking to counsellors and those with the relevant training and experience can help you to make decisions that will stand the test of time 3 months, 3 or even 30 years down the road.

We understand the pressures that lockdown has placed on family relationships, and we have published a range of blogs, with help and guidance. Take a look at our blogs here.

If you would like to make an appointment with our in-house counsellor, Jo Harrison, please contact our Mediation and Family Consultant Coordinator, Wendy Hoare E: wh@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.

Separated Parenting →

Parents who are separating are likely to struggle to make sense of the myriad comments and guidance as to what ought to be done in these extraordinary times.

Each situation is different and often each parent has a very different view of what the rules require so it is no surprise that it is often difficult knowing the correct way forward. In a perfect world, this would be the time to work on building a high-functioning parental alliance which would benefit your children enormously.

However, it is completely understandable that these times are far from perfect and there is a danger that the structures currently being adopted may create tensions that are harder to correct down the line. This may have a detrimental impact on both you and your children.

Our lawyers are experts in advising on the full range of parenting issues from child arrangements orders to relocation and financial support for your children. Take a look at our dedicated page dealing with Child Arrangements on Divorce here. Where needed, we can provide legal advice and other forms of support to help you to secure the best possible outcomes for you and your children.

We also offer Parenting After Parting workshops and a wide range of parenting blogs are available via our news and blogs page here. 

Child Arrangement Orders and Covid-19 →

Child Arrangement Orders concerning ‘Living with’ or ‘spending time with’ may need careful re-thinking in the changed circumstances in which we now operate. Families may face a range of decisions and feel stuck as to how to resolve questions where there are real differences of view.

Guidance has been provided by the Courts as to how any changes necessitated by the lockdown might be dealt with. Our family lawyers specialising in children matters have provided some helpful interpretation for those struggling to manage the change in circumstances:

If you would like any advice or information on how we can help you and your partner to reach an agreement in these unprecedented time, please contact our talented team of top London divorce and family lawyers at hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.

Careful planning is needed in the face of a court order, but often swift action can be needed too where children are at risk from existing structures worked out in happier times.

Financial Separation →

The end of a relationship carries uncertainty over financial security.

Inevitably this uncertainty is greater under the current shadow of Covid-19. However, in most cases, there is no reason why solutions to these issues should not be worked out now.

Where agreements simply cannot be finalised, then some level of developing a “holding position” can be discussed and put in place to permit financial separation until the current uncertainties become clear.

We can help you explore the options available to you so you can be clearer about the options you have and are able to make informed decisions regarding next steps. Our lawyers include specialists in advising on the financial consequences of divorce and separation and on varying any financial arrangements which have already been put in place.

James Pirrie has provided a helpful insight here as to whether the Coronavirus pandemic provides the opportunity to escape from deals or orders on divorce or separation which have just been agreed.

At Family Law in Partnership our expert team of family lawyers, mediators and arbitrators can help if you are concerned about your chances of reaching an agreement whether in mediation, negotiation or if necessary arbitration or litigation. Find contact details and profiles of our top family lawyers here.

In the Middle of Financial Negotiations? →

If you were reaching the end of financial negotiations, it probably seems that, just as a final resolution was in sight, all the pieces have been thrown into the air as as result of the current crisis we are facing. Uncertainty over needs, asset values, incomes and likely pensions will have put in doubt any arrangements that were about to be agreed.

While for some a pause for thought may be required, for many there may still be a way forward.

A holding position could be discussed and agreed to give you the time to assess whether the potential structures still make sense as the post-pandemic dust finally clears. You may wish to take a look at our blog on dealing with investment drops during financial negotiations.

Find contact details and profiles of our top lawyers here.

Suspended Financial Arrangements →

For those who already have financial arrangements in place, you may well find you now need help and guidance stemming from the huge changes that have arisen as a result of the current situation. The assumptions on which any agreements were based may well now look very different.

Spousal maintenance, child maintenance, even the capital and pension orders may (in more extreme circumstances) need to be re-evaluated and adjusted.

To protect yourself variation applications should be made quickly. Haste will be even more important in relation to applications to completely set-aside agreements or orders.

For further information, you may find our variation of maintenance pages helpful together with our recent blogs:

For further information or advice on your particular situation, please contact director James Pirrie on E: jp@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.

How We Work With You →

With the current enforced ‘lockdown’, you may be wondering how the practicalities of instructing us will work. In fact, at Family Law in Partnership we were working on a ‘paperless’ basis before the Coronavirus pandemic and many of our solicitors already worked from home at least occasionally – so we had a head start in many respects. However, there are some differences in this new ‘lockdown’ world we all occupy.

First meetings:

Firstly, initial meetings are now only conducted remotely – by way of video conferencing. We can be flexible as to the system used but our primary system is ‘Starleaf’ which you can use without having to download any software; we simply send you a meeting invite and provided you can get online you will be able to access the meeting. It is secure and very straightforward to use.

Next steps:

Beyond the first meeting, communications take place pretty much just as they would have done before the lockdown: you will be able to reach all relevant members of FLiP by telephone and by email. If any further meetings are required, they will be conducted by way of video conferencing.

Dealing with emails and documents:

All emails sent and received on your case are filed on our electronic case management software. This means that, once filed (which most often happens automatically), everyone at FLiP who is involved with your matter can access that email and will be up to date with events. Similarly, all court documents and other filed documentation is available and accessible by all of your team at FLiP.

If we need to send you very large documents, we can use a system which sends you a web link so that you can retrieve those documents when convenient to you and save them somewhere appropriate, rather than having to wait for large emails to download, or have them rejected by servers due to the file size.

When sending you large pdfs, we can ‘bookmark’ them, so that you can ‘jump’ to specific pages of the document. We can also make them ‘searchable’, so you can more easily find content that you are looking for.

Meeting with your barrister:

We work with all of the leading family law barristers and they have video conferencing facilities too – so we can meet with you and your barrister, albeit remotely, just as we used to before the lockdown. Indeed, for some clients, this is much more convenient than travelling – and can actually help reduce costs.

What about from your perspective?

For some, the lockdown means they have more time available for giving instructions and progressing their case. Therefore, perhaps counter-intuitively, some cases can actually be concluded more quickly than they would otherwise.

If you are currently in lockdown with your spouse / partner, that can make confidentiality an issue at your end – we are finding that some clients prefer to deal with things by email rather than by telephone / video conferencing calls. Others, are arranging to speak when they go for their daily exercise walk, or are sitting in their car to make calls.

How are the courts working?

The area where the lockdown is having the most impact is in relation to the courts.

Different courts are taking different approaches but, generally speaking, they are operating a skeleton staff and physical court hearings in the building are now a rarity, limited to extremely urgent and important matters that cannot be dealt with by way of video conferencing or telephone hearings – which is how most court hearing are currently being conducted.

These remote hearings often work surprisingly well. Those who have already been to court may be familiar with the usual hanging around, waiting to get in front of a judge. Each court is, of course, different and some days may run more efficiently than others, but, generally, matters are keeping to a more strict timetable as the court needs to dial in all parties and the judge etc.

Unfortunately, many court hearings have been adjourned – sometimes with everybody’s consent but, on other occasions, the court has taken this step regardless. No one knows exactly how things will develop but it is expected that, once capacity improves, there will be a pretty significant backlog of adjourned hearings to work through.

Alternatives to using the courts:

In light of all this, more and more people are opting out of the court process and are using other means to resolve the issues arising in their case.

We are successfully running video mediation sessions (where we are not providing legal advice – rules prohibit all law firms doing both) and lawyer assisted settlement meetings are proving very popular. These can be conducted with the assistance of a neutral third party acting as a ‘judge’ (known as a ‘Private FDR’ or ‘Early Neutral Evaluation’), or without.  Virtual ‘rooms’ are set up – you and your solicitor and barrister would be in one room, your spouse / partner and their legal team would be in another and then there would be a third room – occupied by the private judge, or vacant for the two barristers to meet and exchange offers etc.

Where an adjudicated outcome is sought, but the court is being avoided, parties are making use of arbitration which can also be concluded effectively using video conferencing.

Once a settlement (or arbitrated outcome) has been reached, where appropriate, it is possible to submit the terms to the court electronically for the outcome to be approved by a judge. Again, FLiP was ahead of the curve and, prior to the lockdown, we had already signed up to the HMCTS online portal so that divorces and financial consent orders could be submitted and approved online much more quickly and efficiently than relying on the paper system.

At FLiP we offer exceptional legal expertise combined with intelligent and creative solutions to help you through the difficulties you may face. We are market leaders in family mediationarbitration and the collaborative approach and we pioneered the use of private FDRs. We are confident that our technology and best practice together with our unrivaled expertise in out of court process options, will ensure the highest levels of service to our clients during this uncertain time.

For more information on how we can help you to resolve your family law issues, please contact Family Law in Partnership director Daniel Coombes on E: dc@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000 or contact any other member of our team of top London divorce and family lawyers.

Our Free Advice Line

 

During the COVID-19 lockdown, we’re offering free legal advice for your queries on:

 

Domestic Abuse

Children & Parenting Law

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We have some of the very best London divorce lawyers and mediators, along with accomplished arbitrators, family consultants and counsellors. There’s no one better to handle your case.

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