COVID-19 – Family Matters, how have things changed?

COVID19 and the lockdowns have left many people feeling adrift in their relationships and have sadly led to an increase of incidents of domestic violence. The good news is that we are still able to help you with any and all family matters during this time and have dedicated practitioners working within the team.

You may wish to undertake mediation in the first instance to see if matters can be agreed between you and your spouse or partner. Mediators are still working and this can be done remotely via Zoom. Thanks to the technology we now have, the same benefits of mediation such as separate rooms, individual or joint mediation, or family mediation can be accessed without putting yourself at risk. There

are some circumstances in which mediation is not suitable; however, attending mediation can help keep the relationship more amicable. A less contentious divorce or separation can be much easier in situations where there are children, for example. Mediation is a voluntary process and neither party can be forced to attend. However, mediation is usually a mandatory step before any Court proceedings can be issued. We can advise you fully in respect of mediation and its appropriateness.

If mediation is not suitable, or fails, we are now taking instruction mainly via telephone or remotely for example via Zoom. We can arrange a telephone call or virtual meeting whenever is convenient for you and give you the necessary advice.

All documents and bundles for filing with the Court are now often being filed electronically. This prevents multiple people handling documents. We may therefore be sending you more emails with documents to be electronically approved. We will take your email address at the outset to ensure we can send everything we need to you promptly and safely.

The main difference to how proceedings are now managed is the use of remote Court hearings. The Court is providing both telephone and video link hearings. Usually you would have to attend court in person alongside your solicitor and the other parties. However, during the pandemic, Courts are now using the BT MeetMe telephone conference service, Microsoft Teams, Skype and other video conferencing software. These new methods of conducting Hearings are easy to use and do not require additional software aside from a smart phone for video conferences or any phone number for BT MeetMe. At the outset of the Court Hearing you will be reminded that recording the Hearing is a criminal offence and that it is essential you are alone in a private location for the duration of the call. Once this formality has been covered, the process is the same as in pre-COVID times, and your solicitor can represent you.

There is currently a backlog in Court cases due to the increased demand and staff absence. However, Courts are still running and dealing with as much as they can manage but there are delays in getting Court Hearings and paperwork being dealt with by the Court. Whilst this may mean any proceedings take a little longer than usual, we are still able to offer the full range of assistance and services as we could at any other time.

If you need any assistance in relation to any family matter please be confident that our team can assist you fully – the processes may be slightly different in these difficult times – however we can still progress matters on your behalf. Contact Hollie Knapman on 01935 846255 or hollie.knapman@battens.co.uk

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