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14 July 2020

Relationship breakdown in a pandemic – Q&A

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, many couples may have had time to consider the future of their relationship.

It was reported in June that since the lockdown Law firms have seen a 40% rise in divorce enquiries in the UK. ‘In my opinion, couples rarely rush to divorce. Often, they have had a period of many months or even years of trying to mend a failing marriage sometimes with the assistance of family counselling or marriage guidance’ comments Sally Harris, Family Law solicitor. ‘It is difficult to tell whether the coronavirus and subsequent lockdown has been solely responsible for the increase in relationship breakdowns but the pandemic has undoubtedly left cracks in family relationships and certainly given families time to revaluate what is important for their future plus additional financial stress leading to a rise in matrimonial conflict.’

In our relationship breakdown Q&A, Sally Harris reviews common questions raised on the divorce and civil partnership dissolution process and reviews whether the coronavirus pandemic has had an affect on family life and how a solicitor can offer support and guidance to separating couples.

Q1. Can couples still apply for a divorce or civil partnership dissolution during the pandemic?

A Divorce and Civil Partnership Dissolution can still be applied for in exactly the same way during the pandemic as previously. The process is the same either online or by sending a hard copy application to the Court together with the Court fee.  The only difference is that the Court are taking longer to issue and send the paperwork out to the other party than prior to the pandemic.

During the pandemic we have changed the way we offer appointment slightly. While we are still contactable in the usual way, via telephone or email and we now routinely offer Zoom or Skype video calls and pre-booked appointments at our Diss office.

Q2. What steps will a solicitor take you through when applying for a divorce or civil partnership dissolution?

Our family team are members of Resolution and are committed to supporting families in as amicable way as possible, working in the best interests of the whole family.

A solicitor will discuss with you how you are best to dissolve your marriage or civil partnership and draft the petition and accompanying paperwork for you.  This will all be agreed with you and usually your spouse or civil partner before it is sent to the Court to be issued.  The solicitor will then take all the necessary steps to obtain the Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute to finalise divorce/dissolution for you.

Q3. Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted the timescales for divorce and dissolving civil partnerships?

Although the steps that you have to take are exactly the same the pandemic has extended the timescales.  The Court have less staff and backlogs have occurred.  There has also been additional pressure on Judge’s time and therefore it is now taking longer from start to the conclusion of a divorce/dissolution than at the beginning of the year.

Q4. Why is it important to seek expert advice during the divorce and civil partnership dissolution process, rather than taking a DIY approach?

With proper advice the divorce/civil partnership will make its way through the Court process as swiftly as is possible, a solicitor will be able to advise you on any arising risk and the best steps to take to protect yourself..  Many DIY approaches are rejected by the Court where errors have been made, or not fully understanding of the value of joint assets which will affect what you could be entitled to in the settlement, and this can prolong the process considerably.

Top tips to consider when starting a divorce or civil partnership dissolution

  • Wherever possible remain amicable and take a co-operative approach to the process.  This can save a huge amount of time as well as costs and emotional effort if parties are able to work together.
  • Ensure you take legal advice – do not take advice from family or friends, as their situations and/or financials will be very different.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your solicitor questions, no question is stupid and it’s important that you understand the advice you are being given.
  • Don’t panic. Focus on the bigger picture and what is most important to you for an amicable resolution?
  • Prepare yourself financially for your new life. Set budgets and get a good understanding of your financial situation.
  • Be prepared. Be armed with as much information as possible prior to meeting your solicitor.
  • What about the children? A court will always look to put the children’s best interest first, make sure you are working with extended family to ensure your children’s needs are being met.

If you would have further questions regarding any of the points raised in our Q&A, or you wish to speak to a member of the Family Law team regarding your relationship breakdown please call 01603 598000 or email family@steeleslaw.co.uk  and a member of the team will be happy to contact you.

*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

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