Approaches to divorce and separation during COVID-19
We understand that dealing with separation and divorce can be highly sensitive and emotion-charged at the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic may have added to your concerns, with additional complications to your personal circumstances or you may have additional questions on how best to start the divorce and separation process. The Forsters Family team are on hand to guide you through the best options available to you in the current circumstances and can do so in the way that is comfortable for you.
Do feel reassured that the wide range of forward-thinking approaches to resolving your divorce or separation, remain available. There are also a range of options for meeting with your solicitor, video conferring or meeting in person at our COVID secure offices (where social distancing measures are in place), enables us to provide you with the face-to-face support that you may need. Technology provides us with the flexibility to connect with you in the way that suits you best with a hybrid of virtual and physical communications.
How the Forsters Family team can help
We have been able to provide a seamless service to existing and new clients whilst working remotely and in the office, offering clients a 'business as usual' approach. This means there is no need to delay and wait for things to go 'back to normal'; if the time is right for you, we can act now to help resolve matters.
We are able to offer initial consultations (and comply with the necessary anti-money laundering formalities) remotely or meet at our office safely (and comply with social distancing requirements).
We are offering clients the option of meetings by Zoom, Skype, by telephone or in person; this gives clients flexibility and control over their case and how we approach it.
Alternatives to court
For those considering alternatives to court, we have mediators in our team who have conducted three-way Zoom mediations with clients during lockdown. This has been helpful to deal with immediate issues such as child arrangements, or looking at short-term changes to financial arrangements where e.g. the payer of maintenance has suffered a sudden, significant drop in income.
We can also conduct roundtable-meetings via video or a hybrid, with clients in the office and the other parties via video.
Arbitration is well suited to being conducted remotely and has the benefit of providing parties with binding outcomes during the lockdown. Instructing an arbitrator can result in a swift decision at low cost, whereas an application to the court can take many months and incur significant costs on both sides.
Similarly, there are many benefits to private FDRs, that are particularly conducive in the current circumstances. The potential savings of time and costs, as compared to a court FDR, can be substantial. The parties can choose a suitable chair and the negotiation can take place in convivial surroundings, away from the family court.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused great disruption to the family courts, has also compelled judges, court staff and lawyers to innovate and adapt. Remote hearings have become common, paper documents have been replaced with electronic, and processes have moved online.
The family court continues to be open for business and members of our team have been conducting hearings by Skype video or by telephone throughout the period of lockdown. We can also arrange for clients to attend our offices for remote hearings, to help them prepare and debrief following a hearing; we find clients find this extremely reassuring and beneficial.
Some hearings are now proceeding in person (with social distancing measures), which can work better for the more complex cases and for clients who prefer a face to face experience.
Lockdown and current social distancing measures has compelled family lawyers to reconsider their traditional ways of working, and to find alternatives to the overstretched family courts. One positive for clients is a likely growth in swift, cost effective alternative means of resolving family disputes.
In many instances, solicitors are able to assist a couple to reach agreement through negotiation.