Divorce, Children and Finances – but not as we know it.
WOW! Who else feels like they have been on the fastest roller coaster, steepest log flume and through the most powerful car wash all at once? Welcome to COVID-19 the public health crisis 2020.
Life looks, feels and IS very different than it was a mere 7 or is it 8 weeks ago. My office is now my back bedroom equipped with an almost complete IT suite and numerous files. My phone is a mobile whose battery keeps dying. I am becoming quite proficient at video calls on several platforms and I am slowly mastering some pdf software which is truly revolutionising my life. I am working alone as my team are furloughed and at times life feels quite isolated. My family are also furloughed. The upside is that I am regularly supplied with refreshments, the downside is I don’t get to join in their exercise regimes and enjoyment of the sun – but green has never been my colour!
So, life as a family lawyer continues, and cases continue to progress; some faster than others. Some are stalled because we cannot value properties or do not know what earning capacity might exist post lockdown. Advice is given cautiously and, for many couples, making a final financial decision is on hold.
Couples are still getting divorced and disputes still arise regarding arrangements for children. When the country was put into lockdown the government was initially criticised for not offering clear advice to separated parents. This was quickly addressed, and it was confirmed that children moving between households for co-parenting reasons was an exception to the usual rules. There followed guidance from the President of the Family Division for parents with court orders in place, making it clear that orders should be adhered to where safe to do so. The President also recognised that some parents would disagree about what was safe for their children; he encouraged parents to find solutions and to ensure the spirit of orders were maintained even if physical contact was not.
The courts immediate priority is to deal with matters where child protection issues exist, or domestic abuse is an issue. Couples are being actively encouraged to use other dispute resolution tools such as mediation, arbitration or early neutral evaluation. The profession has responded swiftly and admirably to be able to effectively deliver these services by online video conferencing facilities. These services can also be invaluable in working out temporary arrangements to help families over this difficult period.Family Law, General, George Ide, News