Families and Covid-19

Coronavirus is impacting the lives of all of us. For anyone with family law issues, however, it brings particular problems. Here, at Bond Adams Solicitors LLP we provide specific advice that would be helpful and may assist you and your family. 

Please note that advice is subject to change as the situation develops and so that we are considering the forever changing government guidelines.

Court proceedings generally:
The general position is that hearings should be conducted with one, more than one or all participants attending remotely. Where that is not possible, sensible precautions should be taken when people attend a hearing.

The President of the Family Division has issued guidance in relation to the Family Court which confirms that the default position is that the hearings should be conducted remotely where possible, where facilities are available.

Children Act Matters – Covid-19
The position now is that only urgent basis will be considered and dealt with by the court. No ‘normal’ Family Court hearings will take place. 

In relation to family actions, there are a limited number of circumstances in which hearings may be fixed. Generally, these circumstances will include some form of extreme or urgent circumstance which means that matters must be dealt with. This means that normal types of hearings that would take place in relation to Family Court proceedings are not presently operating. Urgent business includes Child Protection matters, interdicts against molestation or domestic abuse and urgent residence applications. 

No new court proceedings can be commenced unless the court is satisfied that the proceedings are urgent. So, for example, if there is, a time limit that must be complied with in relation to your case then it is possible to lodge documents electronically to preserve any claim in the interim. 

The note makes it clear that parental rights and responsibilities ultimately rests with a child’s parents or carers and not with the courts. During these unprecedented times, the expectation is that all those involved in caring for children will act sensibly, safely and in line with any government guidance. It is clear from the government guidance is that one exception to stay at home requirement where both parents are involved in caring for the children. Any arrangement or court order should be adhered to so far as is possible. Each parent should assess the child’s circumstances. This will include an assessment on the child’s health, the risk of infection and the presence of any recognised vulnerable individuals in one household or the other. 

The note encourages meaningful and effective communication between parents o address and resolve any difficulties that arise. It also encourages a use of indirect means of contact where it is not practicable or safe for direct contact to take place. 

Specific references made to:

  • Facetime,
  • WhatsApp, 
  • Skype 
  • Zoom. 
  • Telephone contact should also be allowed and encouraged. 

The hope and expectation are that sensible and practical solutions will be achieved. It is also important to note that in the event that there is a disagreement between parents regarding the operation or otherwise of contact or a shared care arrangement during the Corona Virus outbreak, following on resumption of business as usual, the court may be asked to look at the way in which matters have been managed during the corona virus outbreak by the aggrieved parent.

Notwithstanding that the Family Court is not operating as one would normally expect, over here at Bond Adams Solicitors LLP our child custody solicitors continue to take on new work, offering advice, participating in negotiations and discussions in an effort to resolve and address the issues which are ongoing for clients.

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