Divorce during Covid-19- Your Questions Answered
- AuthorJill Bulteel
Our family team recognise the need for both vulnerable clients, but also those who had planned to separate from their partner and are now unable to do so, to access good quality advice. Some will experience a newfound togetherness and a way of working collaboratively in a difficult situation which will in itself strengthen and reinforce their relationship. For those for whom the opposite is true, we are still here to help you.
How can I access legal advice when Solicitors are working from home or working remotely?
You can access our website 24 / 7 and use our Live Chat to request a call back from a Solicitor who can advise you on your query. You can also call any JCP office number during working hours and speak to a call handler who will forward your details to our family team. Whilst we are all working remotely, we are still accessing our office system which will allow us to email you, open a file for you or call you back. It is business as usual – the same but different.
Can I start my Divorce?
Yes, our family Solicitors can advise you on your Divorce and get the process going for you. If you are in the same property as your spouse, it would be our advice to wait until after the lockdown has ended to avoid the obvious extra stress and upset that ongoing Divorce proceedings will bring. If you are both amicable in wishing to Divorce, you could proceed.
What should I do to prepare myself?
First of all, locate your Marriage Certificate and keep it safe. It will be needed to begin Divorce proceedings. Secondly, you need to locate all of your financial information, for example bank statements, wage slips, business accounts if you have them, and existing valuations of pensions and your property and savings. Having all this information to hand will give us a head start. If you have children, you should start to think about how a shared care arrangement would work.
What if my Divorce has already started?
It will continue. The Court staff are still processing Court documents and you will be notified about the progress of your Divorce. There may of course be delays because of the extraordinary circumstances. Any hearing that has been listed will now, under new guidance from the Lord Chief Justice, be conducted remotely by video conference or telephone so no-one will need to attend the Court building unless the interests of justice or fairness dictate it.
How will the current crisis affect my Financial Remedy case?
We are all prepared for the coronavirus to have a massive impact on our economy. The Banks are wanting a suspension of all house sales unless you have already exchanged contracts, and lenders who have issued mortgage offers will be concerned about people still qualifying for their lending criteria. Although everyone hopes that this will not happen, initial forecasts are that income and job security will be affected at least in the short term.
If you have already given a financial disclosure and negotiations are proceeding, this may now need to be revisited.
Valuations of property that were undertaken prior to the crisis will probably need to be re-evaluated Initial indications suggests that the house prices will decrease by at least 3%.
Also if you have a private pension, it may have de-valued along with the stock market. Certainly the value of stocks and shares will be impacted.
If you have made an offer to settle based on existing valuations, you should consider an urgent review to avoid a settlement that is based on incorrect information. It may also be true that a settlement made prior to the crisis may now appear even more attractive.
How will the current crisis affect my maintenance payments?
This represents a very real difficulty. If you are making child maintenance payments there is a requirement to report a fundamental change of circumstances or a situation where your income has dropped (or increased) by more than 25%. The Child Maintenance Service will then have to conduct a re-assessment. This is likely to affect any paying parent who has seen a definite drop-off in their income.
As far as spousal maintenance payments are concerned, many existing maintenance agreements will be affected. If these agreements are set out in a Court Order, the correct process would be for the paying spouse to apply to Court for a downward variation. To simply not pay maintenance under a Court Order would be a breach of the Court Order. If you are affected by this, please seek advice.
As a Senior Practitioner, Jill has worked with clients on a number of complex and contentious family law matters. She specialises in family law, covering all aspects including divorce, financial and care proceedings, and the Children’s Act.
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