Going through a divorce or separation is a stressful time in normal circumstances. However, we are not in normal circumstances. The team at McPartland & Sons Solicitors share their thoughts on the impact of the current lockdown on getting a divorce.
Can I still get a divorce?
Dissolving your marriage is the simpler part of your divorce process, which is different from working out the children’s finances or arrangements. You can start a divorce online and you usually don’t need to attend court. Any disputes, say the divorce costs, are dealt with remotely either by telephone calling the judge or by Skype, Teams or other online platforms.
Can I still sort out a financial settlement?
This will probably be the biggest problem you will face during divorce. Day by day, the national and world economy shift. Therefore, if you want to sell any land or property, the government has explicitly stipulated that you will not be able to set up land viewings or get surveys and assessments performed. Your pension, business, savings, and investment valuations fluctuate. You could also be furloughed – but for how long and are your earnings being topped up or not?
If necessary, seek to decide on a temporary plan, over the next couple of months and then revisit the situation. If you have applied to the court already, some courts have adjourned final hearings for 12 weeks.
If I am paying maintenance and/or child support and furloughed what do I do?
In order to balance your furloughed salary, you may ask your partner/former partner to agree to a temporary reduction. Do not stop paying – no matter what the situation, but we would advise for you to both communicate together.
If you have a court order, or if no compromise is made, you can need to appeal to the court to change the order. Nonetheless, scheduling a hearing may take the court time, which can cost you more money and stress.
If we have reached a financial agreement before COVID-19 can I change my mind?
If you have reached an agreement without endorsing it by a court order, you may need to consider matters very closely. It may be that you consent to a temporary adjustment in the agreement until the end of the current crisis before proceeding with the final agreement.
If you have a final court order, it will be very difficult to set it aside because you would usually have to show that some new event occurred shortly after the order was given which invalidates the basis or presumption on which the order was made, known as a “Barder case.” Normal price or share fluctuations are not sufficient. However, an application to vary a final court order might have more success.
Are courts still open?
The Lord Chief Justice has given guidelines in response to the current situation announcing that a pilot scheme for hearing undefended divorces in Belfast County Court will begin on May 26, 2020.
Undefended divorces are expected to attend the Court unless the parties agree to the divorce, and then the applicant and their legal representative. They are typically straight-forward trials and are appropriate for remote hearings being held by the court for trial.
Under Schedule 27 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, the County Court Judge involved made a direction that hearings could take place by way of live video link, with the petitioner and their legal representative participating in the hearing. A visit to Court was substituted with a ‘SightLink’ meeting.
We are still here to help you.
We have closed our offices due to lockdown, however all of our workers are able to operate safely and efficiently from home. As usual, you can ring our offices and your calls will be sent directly to our mobiles, any other enquiries can be asked via email and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.
Although there may be court delays, we are still here and ready to give you sound advice and support while you get the process started.