As the Government relaxes lockdown measures, what does this mean for family law?
During the pandemic, families were placed under tremendous pressure, being detained together at home for many weeks, for some an occurrence that typically only occurs during the holiday season. Consequently, many couples are struggling to cope and relationships have been significantly tested.
For separated families additional challenges have been faced. We have seen a significant increase in enquiries concerning child related disputes, and there has been a rise in reported domestic abuse cases throughout the UK.
It is therefore vital that families are aware that despite the lockdown measures in place, there are many support services available to help during these difficult times, many of whom should be able to be more easily accessed in light of the recent relaxing of measures.
Has your ex-partner exploited the current pandemic making your contact with your child or children difficult? Are you concerned about your child or children visiting their other parent because of Covid-19?
Whatever dispute you are facing as parents, there are tools available to help.
In recent weeks, CAFCASS launched its ‘Co-Parenting Hub’ which can be found by clicking on the following link: https://cafcass.clickrelationships.org/
The website provides useful resources and information to enable separated parents to navigate the minefield of co-parenting after separation.
Should separated parents be unable to agree who the child or children should live with, or the frequency of time which should be spent with the other parent, they are encouraged to seek guidance from a family mediator. These are specially trained professionals who provide a neutral viewpoint to assist parents in reaching resolutions. Many mediators in the local area are carrying out mediation sessions via telephone or video link during the crisis, so parents are still encouraged to utilise this service where appropriate.
Where mediation is not suitable, or the dispute is simply too complex to be settled in this way, parents may have to look to the Court for resolution.
It is important to be aware that irrespective of what the wider press may have you believe, the family Court remains open, albeit largely practising on a remote basis with hearings being heard via telephone or video link. Urgent cases are understandably being heard as a priority, whilst other applications such as child arrangements, are being listed for hearing. Individuals are encouraged at this time to use the online portal to make non-urgent applications.
Further details can be found at: https://apply-to-court-about-child-arrangements.service.justice.gov.uk/
If you are a victim of domestic abuse during the pandemic, the Police are still there to help you. There are also a number of charities and organisations who are able to provide advice and assistance. Details of the same can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-and-domestic-abuse/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-victims-of-domestic-abuse
If your spouse or partner is abusive, or even threatening to be so, towards you, help is available. This type of conduct is often not limited to physical violence and can include intimidation, harassment or someone being coercive and controlling towards you.
In such circumstances, an application can be made to the Family Court for an injunction to protect you. ‘Non-Molestation Orders’ can be applied for which protect against the abuse, prevent direct and indirect contact, and can place zonal restrictions on the perpetrator coming near you and your home.
‘Occupation Orders’ are also available in certain circumstances, to regulate the occupation of the family home, which could include the exclusion of one party from the property. Such applications are deemed urgent so are still being heard as a priority by the Courts to ensure protection is afforded to those individuals who need it.
Furley Page's Family Law team has a wealth of experience in child arrangement and domestic abuse related cases. Should you wish to discuss your situation with us, please telephone 01227 763939 for assistance.