The trials of family life are different for everyone but in this crisis situation that we are experiencing now thanks to Covid-19 it really increases the pressure on merged or separated families.
We have had a number of unique Covid-specific queries from families and individuals living across the South East as well as from abroad, asking questions about separation or divorce, not to mention those who are already in the process of separating who are wondering if it is a bad time to split assets. On top of this, there has been a stream of Government-related briefings affecting families that have confused clients – all of which have kept us very busy.
Some of the main Covid-19 divorce and separation questions that frequently come up are:
Can children move between two separated family households?
Very early in the Lockdown, Michael Gove gave worryingly incorrect information to separated parents live on Good Morning Britain. He said that children travelling between separated parents was not a permitted type of travel. Thankfully, within 24 hours he back tracked and confirmed that bit of crucial information was wrong. This led to a deluge of enquiries about whether children were allowed to travel or not. For the avoidance of doubt unless they or someone in their household has symptoms and is self-isolating, they can! Further information on Family Court arrangements can be found here.
Is this the right moment to be dividing our assets?
As lawyers who deal with marital finances, we are extremely mindful about whether now is the right time to do a ‘deal’. The valuations of assets, investments and some pensions continue to be hugely impacted by current events. In some cases this has led to the withdrawal of some current settlement offers or (as this is often a double edged sword) pushing forward with settlements already reached but not yet implemented.
What is happening to divorce court hearings?
Those couples that were going through a separation had some court hearings postponed or transferred to telephone hearings. This has largely now settled down and in fact telephone hearings are actually much more efficient, with the client able to take part from the comfort of their sofa and often without the worry of childcare arrangements.
How to manage parental disagreements on school return for children
More recently, with the opening of schools and nurseries, there have been disagreements between separated parents around whether or not a child is allowed to return to their ‘non-compulsory’ educational establishment. The answer to this one is still developing and often turns on the specific family circumstances.
Let’s not forget that the internet can be a great source of help, but in this current and ever changing climate it is even more important to speak with an expert on the front line of family law.