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Divorces could rise due to COVID-19 lockdown say family barristers

Published: 13th May 2020 15:32


THE CURRENT social distancing measures are causing parents who may have already been struggling to maintain a relationship to think about separation or divorce according to leading family law experts (May 2020).

Bristol-based legal service, Children in the Middle says as families are at home together, combined with other associated COVID-19 issues, this is magnifying issues and more parents are considering splitting-up.

Family barrister, Elizabeth McCallum, who co-founded Children in the Middle with fellow barrister Sarah Evans, says: “As parents are now working from home where possible, avoiding non-essential trips and have home schooling to contend with too, a spotlight is being thrown on many relationships that may have already been under pressure.

“When the restrictions were relaxed in China, the town Xi’an recorded a leap in divorces. Local government offices said they were overwhelmed with requests from unhappy couples. Of course, during the shutdown there may have been a backlog of divorces already in the system to process, but social isolation is also being cited as a cause for the upsurge in requests.

“However, in this country the courts are still sitting virtually, and we’ve always been able to work remotely. We’re available to give struggling couples assistance during the lockdown, so they need not wait until after restrictions are eased to get help.

“We appreciate it’s not easy for already strained parents to spend 24 hours a day together, living and working under the same roof with no opportunity of socialising with friends or having free time away from other family members.

“We also understand, under the current circumstances, changes to routines, greater parenting demands and schooling requirements can be stressful for everyone. You may also be dealing with uncertainty and worries about your health, as well as work and financial stability.

“These stresses may be making other issues seem insurmountable at the moment, so it’s important before contacting someone for legal advice to consider if divorce or separation is what you ultimately want. We would also urge parents who are considering a split with their partner to always put their children first. Recent changes to their routines, fears about the virus and concerns about their and your health, will be having an impact on them too. As will any discussions you may be having, which they are able to overhear about your finances.”

Children in the Middle is one of the few legal services in the country offering people the chance to speak directly to barristers. In the past a solicitor was required to instruct a barrister, but due to rule changes under the Public Access Scheme, members of the public are now able to instruct barristers direct. 

Elizabeth continues: “We’ve put together a few tips for parents who are considering, or have already, split-up. These could assist you to get through a very tricky period and will help protect your children, and you, if you need to take any legal action in the future. They include:

·         Be wary of your friends offering well-meaning advice – every situation is different. They are not going to be objective or impartial, whereas trained professionals will be.

·         Get expert advice – choose a family law specialist who you can communicate with in plain English. Ask about their background and experience.

·         Keep your children out of any of the discussions or arguments – remember your ex-partner is also their parent and someone they love. It’s important to ensure their relationship with both of you remains positive.

·         Don’t use the Internet as a source of information – this is not the place to get the right advice, especially as many websites relate to US not UK law.

·         Avoid undignified, unreasonable and emotionally charged written communications with your former partner as these, even texts, could potentially be used in court.

·         Keep calm, detach your emotions and be fact-based in any discussions with your ex.

·         Keep good records, get organised with your paperwork.

·         Have a diary and take notes of anything you feel is important and relevant. This can also help you work through the break-up as well.

·         Remember you no longer have to go through a solicitor to instruct a barrister to represent you inside and outside of court. By having direct access to barristers, you can save money by managing and handling the admin and the paperwork, while still benefitting from specialist legal advice from a children’s law expert.

·         Take care of yourself – eat well, spend time doing your favourite hobbies at home, get out into green, open spaces, abiding by social distancing rules at all times. It’s important to have perspective and not to fixate, and to also retain your health to help your children through the process, which can have health and emotional implications for them too.”

Sarah, who has been a family law specialist for more than 30 years, says: “As experts in making child arrangements following divorce and separation, we’re on hand to advise both parents and to work towards a sensible resolution. No matter how challenging your circumstances, we can guide you through making care arrangements that work for you and your children. We offer creative, practical solutions to even the most difficult problems, so you and your children can move forward in a positive way.

“The particular needs of your family and the wellbeing of your child are our top priorities. Wherever possible, we will help a parent reach a voluntary agreement with the other parent over the arrangements for their child. But, if court action is required, as barristers, we can provide the experienced representation a parent needs for every stage of the proceedings, from initial advice, drafting an application to the court, representation at hearings and preparation of witness statements and evidence.

“However, as a parent you may just need one virtual meeting with us, so we can give you advice and guidance on the best way forward for you and your child.”

For further details, please call Children in The Middle on 0117 214 1797 or email office@childreninthemiddle.co.uk. Alternatively, please visit www.childreninthemiddle.co.uk.



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