Insights

Post pandemic family law

As trains start to fill up, roads become busier and offices return to pre-pandemic capacity, family lawyers are reflecting on the impact of the pandemic.

COVID not only brought a threat to Britain’s health, but also to their relationships. Lockdowns caused a ‘divorce boom’ which was made infinitely worse by the fact separating couples were confined to their homes together.

Children cases also spiked when relationships between separated parents became strained. Cases involved either parents refusing access to children for isolation purposes or demanding extra help from each other.

Most unfortunately, cases involving domestic abuse increased as isolation added to the melting pot of often already troubled relationships.

As lockdowns eased it became clear that separating couples had gone to great lengths to seek legal advice. They requested incredibly specific timings to coincide with their partner’s online gym class or hid in their cars to speak to their solicitor in private.

The most prominent similarity in the cases of the time was sadly the sheer level of hostility between the individuals involved. Couples who had made the difficult choice to separate pre COVID, or those for whom lockdown pushed them towards the decision, were completely stuck.

While there were stories of happy reconciliation, most involved increased resentment in the long limbos. Bad behaviour and increased agitation at home resulted in many digging their heels in at critical points, causing cases to drag and halt. This was heightened by the ongoing Court backlogs and subsequent delays.

Unfortunately, the ‘divorce boom’ looks set for a second wave, as restrictions are relaxed, and parties are given the space to contemplate their circumstances. Many have since made hard decisions based on the current state of their relationships in the wake of the stress and confinement seen over the past 18 months.

The roadmap for the Family Court system remains unclear. The Courts are continuing with remote hearings which many claim fail in providing parties with an adequate forum to be properly heard. This uncertainty, along with the severe delays, has pushed family lawyers to think pragmatically, encouraging clients into alternate forms of dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration or holding ‘private’ court hearings outside of the court process.

One positive move for family law is the introduction of the ‘no-fault divorces’ in April 2022. It is hoped that this will help combat the increase in hostility seen in recent divorces by removing the early point of contention when one party needs to blame the other for their bad behaviour or adultery. The expectation is that the parties will be able to take a constructive approach to their separation from an early stage. This in turn, should help parties progress matters more collaboratively, hopefully outside of the stretched Court system, and achieve a fairer and less traumatic separation.

For family law advice, please contact Sandy Hills on 01689 887829 or email sandy.hills@cwj.co.uk.

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.