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Deciding to get a divorce will most likely be one of the biggest decisions in a person's lifetime. If you have already made the difficult decision to divorce, our advice is not to hold off because of the pandemic.
Firstly, unfortunately, no-one knows when we will see an end to Covid-19. Secondly, there are some considerable court backlogs in court dates being listed for financial remedy proceedings due to the pandemic. Financial remedy proceedings are the Court process by which separating spouses' finances are finalised. Therefore, if you have decided to take this difficult step, it is advisable to start the process as soon as possible.
Business as usual
The family team at Pinney Talfourd are working as effectively as usual to provide advice, assistance and legal representation in all family matters including divorce and finances on divorce. We offer appointments remotely via a video conference platform or by telephone. We are also able to offer face to face appointments when needed and as long as these are allowed by the current Government guidelines. We are of course taking all necessary precautions to prioritise the health and safety of staff and clients during this process.
The family courts are also still hearing cases. Many courts are open to the public and those that are not are hearing cases remotely by telephone or via video conferencing platforms. Divorce applications and applications for financial remedy proceedings are both being received by the courts online. Divorce applications going online has sped up the divorce process when comparing it to making 'paper applications' by post.
However, it is important to try to settle matters amicably, if possible, and without going to court. Court proceedings can be time consuming, costly, and stressful and so should be the last resort. The court requires that separated spouses consider mediation and attend an initial mediation information meeting before making a court application, save in exceptional circumstances. Mediation is when a separated couple try to agree the division of finances on divorce with the help of a trained and neutral third party. Many mediators with whom we work have embraced technology and adapted well in the face of a pandemic. There are mediators that offer face to face mediation in a Covid safe environment and in line with the guidelines. Mediators are also offering the opportunity to mediate remotely.
There are also other options available to try to settle matters. For example, we work closely with experienced barristers and judges that offer private dispute resolution hearings. At these hearings, the barrister or judge that has been hired will give the parties an indication of the likely outcome of the case and the parties can then try to negotiate and attempt to reach a financial settlement. The sets of barristers' chambers we work with have the technology and equipment to conduct these hearings remotely by video link and ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible.
This article was written by Yanoulla Kakoulli, Associate in the Family Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of October2020.