As we continue through this COVID-19 lockdown, with no real idea of when it will be over, the strain can be felt in all areas of people’s lives. The question for many is “can I still get divorced in lockdown?”
For some people lockdown with their partner has been a positive experience. For others, it may have magnified issues that were already there or put a strain on the relationship due to health and financial anxieties.
So what options are open to couples looking for a divorce in lockdown and is it a good idea to start a divorce during a global pandemic.
Stowe Family Law, the UK’s largest specialist family law firm, shares some of the most frequently asked questions they are receiving from clients about divorce in lockdown.
Is it possible to start divorce proceedings during a lockdown?
Yes, you can still get divorced in lockdown. Family law firms are working remotely and offering virtual consultations. The family courts are still accepting divorce petitions.
We have noticed that people are making initial enquiries about divorce when and where they can. Clients have contacted us from their weekly supermarket shop or on their daily exercise.
Is it a good idea to start divorce proceedings during a pandemic?
Starting divorce proceedings should never be a decision that is taken lightly.
At the moment, everyone is under pressure and strain from this pandemic and families are out of their normal routine which will impact on relationships. It is important that people do not make rash decisions.
Many of the enquiries we are receiving at the moment are because lockdown has highlighted serious relationship issues which the couple can no longer ignore and divorce is now the only option.
Some of our clients delayed proceedings when lockdown started but are now wishing to progress as uncertainty about the length of lockdown continues.
In a small number of cases, clients who were happily married have had their relationship put under strain due to concern over finances, employment or health.
What do you need to consider if you decide to divorce/separate during the lockdown?
If you have reached the difficult decision to divorce there are a number of things you should consider.
Your current situation
Certain decisions will need to be made about where will you both live, how will you manage your finances in the interim and any arrangements for the children.
These can be difficult decisions but you need to consider what will work for your family as lockdown continues.
To start, it is advisable you have an initial consultation with a family lawyer who will be able to discuss your particular situation and answer any queries and alleviate any concerns.
Practically, you need to decide who will be the Petitioner in the divorce (the person who commences the divorce proceedings), you or your spouse.
To submit a divorce petition, you are required to supply your original marriage certificate so it is worth locating it or requesting a duplicate copy if you need. (You cannot use a photocopy.)
The current lockdown has had a dramatic impact on house prices and employment in the UK. However, you can work with your lawyer to ensure that any financial settlements take into account the likely impact of the virus, for example, an agreement to delay the sale of the house etc.
Are the family courts still open?
Yes, family courts are still accepting divorce petitions and court hearings are being carried out by telephone or video conferencing.
What are the first steps to getting a divorce in lockdown?
It is really important to get legal advice about divorce as early as possible. Family law firms are offering initial telephone consultations. If you then decide to proceed, a video call can be arranged to discuss your situation in more detail and advise you on the next possible steps in relation to your divorce.
If you wish to file your own divorce proceedings then you can do so online by using this link https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-divorce
If you would like any advice on divorce during lockdown please do speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers.
Stowe Family Law is the UK’s largest specialist family law firm. Founded in 1982, the firm employs over 75 specialist family lawyers with a collective experience of over 800 years.