Effective 1 June, we have a new address: 34 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1QZ
Get in Touch Menu

Family law issues & coronavirus: Q&A 

02 April 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown family life into a tailspin, and for those with current relationship, family and divorce issues, things may get even more complex while the crisis is ongoing. Our Legal 500-rated family law partner, Sharon Giles, answers some frequently-asked questions on the family law-related issues that may arise out of the coronavirus outbreak.

I’m supposed to be going to court – how will this work?

As if the new rules for social distancing, self-isolation, work from home, school closures, and general prohibition on travel (and fun) weren’t enough, throw in a family dealing with divorce and you have a real crisis on your hands.

On a practical level, the coronavirus pandemic will inevitably prolong any proceedings. Physical face-to-face meetings between solicitor and client are a complete ‘no go’ area, and court access is quickly reduced to remote access hearings only, quite naturally prioritising the most desperately urgent cases. Our long-established legal processes and procedures have literally disappeared overnight and are replaced by new age processes and technology – the virtual legal world has arrived!!

A new Coronavirus Act 2020 expands the availability of video and audio links in court proceedings. If you are due to attend a court hearing anytime soon expect to be joining by telephone or video link. All physical lodging and handling of documents must be avoided, and e-bundles – on-line filing – are pretty much mandatory.

Adjournments of the less urgent family hearings are increasing by the day.  Most people involved in court proceedings can expect significant delay.

My children have two homes, which one do they stay at?

The family court guidance is clear in that children can – and should – still travel between the households of their separated parents where this is safe and practicable. If illness arises, a regular routine of contact should resume once family members have finished self-isolating. Maintaining an established routine will provide reassurance to children during this unsettling and indeed frightening time. Where direct contact is not possible, indirect contact should be encouraged and facilitated.

Don’t forget the wider family members too, most grandparents, aunties and uncles play an important role in children’s lives and will most surely appreciate regular telephone or Skype/FaceTime calls from you and your children whilst they are self-isolating.

My investments have taken a nosedive! How will this affect my divorce?

Divorce lawyers apparently report a surge of enquiries from prospective clients wishing to take advantage of the fast depreciation of assets and get a divorce deal sorted now. Strike whilst the iron is hot, why don’t you? Other clients are preferring to delay any major decision-making until the financial landscape becomes more certain again. As the coronavirus outbreak escalates, it is impossible to reliably value homes and other assets as couples need to do to assess a fair split. Nor can we predict when anything will revert back to a state of normal, whatever our new normal is.

Whilst the new ‘stay at home’ rules will inevitably drive unhappy marriages and relationships to the fore, divorce lawyers predict a real spike in divorce enquiries after these lifestyle restrictions are lifted. Traditionally, divorce and separation instructions peak after prolonged periods of family holiday togetherness. Sadly, I suspect that financial hardship and the stress and worry of coronavirus generally will take its toll on many family relationships this year.

As always, if you need legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

Email Sharon

Head of our Legal 500-rated divorce & family law team, Sharon Giles specialises in complex financial matters often involving business interests, significant pension resources and/or properties and investments owned abroad.

We’re regularly updating our website with more COVID-19 legal insights, so keep an eye on for the latest legal perspectives relating to the coronavirus.

Sharon Giles LLB (Hons)
View profile
Family law solicitor
Related services
Share this article
Resources to help

Related articles

Prenuptial agreements | A complete guide

Prenuptial agreements

A prenuptial agreement is a bespoke document drawn up by a solicitor or lawyer. It is a sound and sensible way to protect the assets you have worked hard for,…

Sharon Giles LLB (Hons)

No-fault divorce – everything you need to know

Family, relationships & divorce

Today, the landmark no-fault divorce law comes into effect in England and Wales. This means that divorcing couples no longer have to play the ‘blame game’ or provide evidence of…

Sharon Giles LLB (Hons)

Changes to marriage law

Family, relationships & divorce

From April 2022, civil wedding and partnership ceremonies in England and Wales can take place outdoors, following a decision to make temporary measures permanent. The change offers engaged couples more…

Kristie Silsby LLB (Hons)
Contact us