At Maxwell Hodge we get asked many questions and in these uncertain times people may be unclear as to how to find answers. This blog aims to answer some of the key questions facing people in family law.

I am a separated parent, can I still see my children during lockdown?  

The answer in most cases is yes. Shortly after the lockdown began, the government issued guidance to state that children can move between their parents’ homes. The family courts then took this a step further to indicate that contact arrangements should remain in place. There are of course some exceptions to this – mostly, where there is a risk that the child may mix with someone from a vulnerable group. Wherever face to face contact cannot take place, the courts expect parents to ensure that indirect contact is in place via social media platforms.

I need to start Divorce proceedings but I’ve heard that the Courts aren’t accepting new applications. What should I do?

Whilst currently the Courts aren’t issuing new petitions but are instead focussing on existing matters, it has been indicated that when the Courts do come to consider the new applications, they will do so in date order. Given a likely surge in divorce matters when lockdown is fully relaxed, it may therefore be prudent to lodge a Petition now rather than wait.

Are the Courts still operational, how will my hearing be heard?

Yes the Courts are still operational. However, most Courts are operating on a remote basis. In practical terms, this means that papers should be sent to Court electronically and most hearings take place remotely, unless absolutely necessary. It is likely that the Courts will continue to operate in this way for some time. There are cases where a face to face hearing will still be needed, but as yet, the Courts have not indicated when these can take place.

I need to attend Mediation. How can I do that if I cannot be in the same room as my ex partner?

Mediation continues to operate during these times. Again, matters do take place remotely, with many mediators operating via Skype, Zoom or other online platforms.

It may be reassuring to note that whilst we are in unprecedented times, there are plans in place to ensure that the family issues can still be dealt with.