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Lockdown part II - what it means for family law

View profile for Karen Johnson
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Lockdown part II - what it means for family law

With the country poised to enter a second lockdown on the 5 November 2020, I thought that it would be helpful to set out how this will impact issues relevant to family lawyers and their clients. 

The courts

These remain operational and, should you have a court hearing during this lockdown period, it has been confirmed that this is a permitted reason to leave your home. However, as a result of the pandemic, the courts are making increased use of remote hearings (via telephone or video) where possible and appropriate, so personal attendance at court may not be necessary. 

Due to the pandemic, we are experiencing additional delays with the courts as the operational changes have placed a strain on court resources. This has meant that it has been necessary for HMCTS to prioritise certain types of work such as care proceedings and domestic violence injunctions. 

Domestic abuse

The last lockdown period saw an increase in calls to domestic abuse helplines. The prolonged time spent with our families combined with financial concerns and the general impact of lockdown on our mental health and wellbeing results in an unfortunate increase in the risk of abuse. 

If you find yourself in an unsafe situation, it has been confirmed that this is an acceptable reason to leave the home. In an emergency dial 999. Help and support can be obtained through a number of domestic abuse organisations. In Essex, this can be obtained through an organisation called Compass, who can be contacted on 0330 3337 444. 

We are able to assist with advice in relation to your options and emergency applications to the court for protective injunctions and to address any other issues such as arrangements for children, divorce and finances. 

Children

During the last lockdown, it was quickly clarified that children whose parents were separated could continue to move between their parents’ homes as part of shared care or contact arrangements. The only situation where these arrangements would be disrupted is if a member of either household becomes symptomatic, is diagnosed with Covid-19 or has been advised by NHS England that the children/ household need to self-isolate. 

Children will be continuing to attend school at this time and can continue to access childcare (both formal and informal).

Relationships

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the romantic lives of the single and those in a relationship but not living together. For those living alone (as a single parent family), they have the option of forming a bubble with another household. 

However, only one bubble can be formed and maintained and if the household that you are looking to form a bubble with has more than one adult, they must all agree to the bubble. This is likely to cause problems if, for example, they are still living with their ex or are a lodger. 

For those not able to form a bubble (or move in together) it would seem that you may gaze lovingly at each other through computer screens with virtual date nights. Hope also comes with the new exemption which allows you to leave home for the purpose of outdoor exercise or visiting an outdoor public place with 1 person from another household whilst remaining an appropriate distance from each other. Outdoor public places include parks, beaches, countryside, public gardens and playgrounds. Private gardens are not allowed. 

At Birkett Long LLP, our specialist lawyers are working tirelessly to keep you up to date with the changes as they happen. We want to provide you with the help you need, whether that is in relation to your family, employment or business. Our team of independent financial advisers are also available to provide you with financial advice. 

I am a specialist family lawyer. Call me on 01206 217305 or email karen.johnson@birkettlong.co.uk to discuss how we can help you. 

 

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