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Clarke & Son Blog

Family in the time of Coronavirus

In these uncertain and challenging times that we are all experiencing, it is vital that you know how to go about obtaining legal advice should you need it.

We are open for business.

It is business as usual for all our expert lawyers, and our support staff here at Clarke & Son. In line with Her Majesty’s Government’s advice, the office is currently closed to members of the public, and our staff are now working remotely, and are being actively encouraged and supported to do so. Our ability to continue representing our existing clients and helping new ones has not changed. If you need any level of assistance, pick up the phone, or email us. If you are a new client, we will arrange to speak to you via phone in the first instance, at no charge, as we did with all our new enquiries prior to the Coronavirus becoming part of our daily lives. This will enable us to get an understanding of what assistance you may require and how we can go about delivering that for you. It is likely we will then want to arrange a separate and more lengthy call, whether via telephone, or video conference (Skype / Microsoft Teams) where we can then advise you in detail, with a view to moving your case forward for you.

Courts remain open for business

In relation to Family Law, the Courts remain open for business, and any new application that needs to be issued at Court, whether urgent or not, can still be issued at Court.  Guidance has now been issued that confirms that almost all types of Family Law Court hearings should be conducted remotely, whether via telephone/skype/video conferencing. At Clarke and Son we have the IT infrastructure in place to support this guidance. Where appropriate, some existing Court hearings are likely to be adjourned, provided it is not prejudicial to either party to do so, or that a child or children is placed at harm by doing so. Judges are now feeding back to confirm that even complex cases, with numerous parties, are being dealt with remotely and successfully. For us at Clarke and Son, this will be put into practice shortly with a 5 day Final Hearing on financial matters, further to the parties divorcing some years ago, where the parties will be required to give evidence, and be cross-examined on the same, and where complex business structures will need to be actively considered. This will likely involve at least seven separate people dialing in from seven separate locations, to include the Judge, two senior barristers, both parties and their respective solicitors.

We can still help you in your time of need

Whilst movement for us all has been restricted, and that could mean having to live under the same roof with a spouse whilst going through marital difficulties, we can help to draft up divorce petitions that keep the allegations of behavior as mild as possible so as to try and not cause any further emotional upset than there might be already. The Courts will be even more aware now of the need for people to remain living under the same roof, albeit living separately and apart. Issuing a divorce petition should be seen as a procedural exercise and nothing more. It is only in very rare circumstances that someone’s behavior will impact on how matters relating to the finances or the children will have any level of inter-play in such matters. We can lead you through the pros and cons of any possible approach. Discussions can be had in confidence so that when all of this is passed us, proactive steps are taken at that time to bring a marriage to an end, rather than now, if it is felt prudent to take such an approach. Having a conversation with one of our Family Lawyers now, does not necessarily have to lead to divorce immediately, but regrettably for many, these times of heightened pressures and relationships are likely to result in divorce.

Visits with non-resident parent should continue

If you are living in separate households already, and you have a child or children together, the advice from HM Government is very clear. Visits for the child or children with the non-resident parent should continue, and facilitating those visits is not in any way breaking the directives we have been given with regards to restricting our movements. Each case does though need to be seen within its own context and there may be very real reason as to why such visits need to be scaled back, or should not be taking place at all. If you’re not sure about your legal positon, or what decisions could be seen being in the best interests of the child (that is the legal test), then you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Cafcass and Resolution offer some helpful guidance at:

https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/

https://www.resolution.org.uk/looking-for-help//parents-children-the-law

Further guidance can be found from HM Judiciary:

https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/coronavirus-crisis-guidance-on-compliance-with-family-court-child-arrangement-orders/

You can still leave an abusive relationship

If you are suffering from domestic abuse, you are able to leave that abusive relationship without fear of breaking any of the current restrictions on movements. Whilst we are living through very challenging times that cannot in any way be seen as an excuse for abusive behaviour of any nature & such behaviour is not confined to physical attacks, but can be coercive and controlling behaviour. Remember, whilst statistically abuse in any form, is more often than not perpetrated by a man against a woman, it can be perpetrated by a woman against a man, and can be a feature of same sex relationships. Below are some links that will assist.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-and-domestic-abuse

https://www. womensaid.org.uk/covid-19-coronavirus-safety-advice-for-survivors/

The above is just a snap-shot of some of the problems you might be faced with and over which you may need assistance. We will be producing more detailed advice on these and many more topics, but if you need any form of assistance, you should not hesitate to contact one of our Family Law experts. Please call 01256 320555 or email mchapman@clarkeandson.co.uk.

Mark Chapman

Head of Family Law

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