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Divorce during Covid-19: What to do if your marriage is over
Lockdown is placing added pressure on some relationships, with financial worries and lack of outside interaction creating a pressure cooker environment.
Family Solicitor Louise Kelly, explains what to do if divorce is the only option.
Can I still get a divorce in the current climate?
Coronavirus is impacting on every facet of our lives, with financial security, social interaction, children’s education and home life being turned upside down.
It has been said that Covid-19, and lockdown in particular, will either make or break some relationships as there is often nowhere to escape and let off steam, and no friends or family to dilute the tensions.
While many people are predicting a baby boom following the crisis, a sharp rise in divorces may also be on the cards.
For couples who have been struggling in their relationship, the last few weeks may have confirmed what they already suspected – that their marriage has broken down and there is no possibility of a reconciliation. If this is the case, then Covid-19 doesn’t change anything, and divorce proceedings can still begin as usual.
Solicitors are working from home to make sure they can provide continued support and advice during social distancing, and the Family Courts are doing all they can to keep the wheels of justice in motion – albeit remotely, either by telephone or video link.
However, there is no doubt that there are added complications during this time of crisis, which will need to be navigated as best as possible. For example, with people having to socially distance, it may not be easy for couples to physically separate and for one of you to move out.
Moving back in with parents or finding new rented accommodation may not be possible, so living ‘separately’ in the same house may be the only option.
Also, with heightened fears around financial security, some couples may feel it is the wrong time for them to make any decisions that could impact their bank balance further.
During the breakdown of any marriage, there are lots of questions and worries about what will happen next, including what will happen to the family home and children. Often people want to reach an agreement and move forward sooner rather than later.
People who want to start official proceedings now, rather than waiting until the crisis has subsided, can get the ball rolling as they normally would.
Solicitors can still be contacted, and telephone appointments arranged, rather than in person, and any documents that are required can be emailed. It may seem a little less personal, but the outcome will be the same.
In relation to child arrangements during social distancing, government, the president of the Family Court and Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) have set out clear guidance that stipulates that children can travel between their parents’ homes in order to spend quality time with them.
However, it’s important to point out that this does not mean children ‘must’ travel if it is not safe, or if it would put a parent or child at risk. If it is not safe for a parent to physically see a child due to health risks, contact can be arranged via other means, such as FaceTime, Zoom, letters and cards.
If during divorce proceedings a financial agreement has already been reached, the court can continue to approve the agreement, as it normally would. It’s important that any agreement is put into an order and approved by the court to provide financial security and prevent any unexpected further financial claims.
And if you haven’t yet reached an agreement, there is no reason why you can’t discuss one. A question being frequently asked at present is whether it’s a good idea to reach an agreement now, with the future economy so uncertain.
People will need to think about the possible impact of the current crisis on house prices, business values and pensions. These are all matrimonial assets that will need to be divided and are important considerations that should be thought through when discussing any settlement.
The difficulty at the moment is knowing how long things will remain uncertain. Some people may wish to wait and see, but others may be keen to agree now and draw a line. There is no wrong or right answer. However, the first step in reaching an agreement is sharing all financial information with each other.
If divorce is the only option, there is nothing to stop people at least starting the process. Solicitors are still on hand to guide you through and advise you on what can be a daunting process.