The Role of Family Courts in Domestic Abuse Situations

The Role of Family Courts in Domestic Abuse Situations

The Role of Family Courts in Domestic Abuse Situations

Domestic abuse, in any form, is a terrible experience. While moving away from such a situation and seeking legal support with divorce proceedings, and child custody matters are vital, it can be a significant challenge for abuse survivors.

Tackling the court system, potentially fearing a confrontation with an abusive ex-partner, and the need to ensure a safe future for children can all add a substantial weight of stress.

Firstly, we are here to help. Elaine Parkes Solicitors are experts in every aspect of family law and can provide confidential advice to ensure you get the support you need.

From emergency injunctions to safeguarding your home, there are very many ways to protect yourself and your children, with Legal Aid available to assist in covering any associated legal costs.

It is essential to know how the family courts can help and what resources they offer to support domestic abuse victims. While court proceedings can be daunting, the process is there to formalise your protection and rights, with the backing of the legal system to enforce any rulings passed down by a judge.

Here we have summarised what options you have to move on from an abusive relationship, and how the UK courts can help you navigate the process successfully.

For more information and a private discussion about the best route for you, please do get in touch with our Hastings or Brighton teams covering much of West and East Sussex.

How the Domestic Abuse Bill Has Changed the Court Experience

The Domestic Abuse Bill is part of a significant overhaul of the family court system. It seeks to address imbalances that have previously made court proceedings challenging for domestic abuse victims.

Examples of reforms include:

  • Improved barring order systems, empowering judges to prevent abusers from protracting the court process and forcing victims to keep attending further hearings.
  • Increased protection for victims to avoid confrontations, including separate entrances to the court building, and protective screens.
  • The recognition that abuse is not only physical but can include emotional abuse, coercion, economic abuse and controlling behaviours – all of which are treated equally seriously.
  • Prevention of cross-examination of victims by perpetrators of abuse.
  • Inclusion of domestic abuse protections for victims outside of cohabiting scenarios – such as family members and ex-partners who were not living together when the abuse occurred.

In the interest of supporting victims in expediting the court process, judges have been awarded greater powers. That includes the ability to prevent aggressive questioning, to prevent re-victimising by exposing abuse sufferers to unnecessary stress.

Initially, such changes will be introduced as a pilot scheme, with judges encouraged to intervene when they deem it necessary, and control lines of enquiry.

These changes are vital to supporting domestic abuse survivors and ensuring that hearings – whether criminal or relating to matters of family law – have a successful outcome without creating further trauma.

Many family matters where there has been an instance, or instances of domestic abuse, require interventions from Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

If I Divorce an Abusive Spouse, Will I Have to Confront Them in Court?

In short, no, you can proceed with a divorce, or a child custody hearing, for example, without having to confront an abusive ex-partner directly. Courts are there to hear a case and pass a decision, and must not expose domestic abuse victims to further potential harm.

Given changes to court hearing formats, and the introduction of video conferencing hearings where in-person proceedings are not possible, the family courts’ capacity to facilitate remote hearings has vastly improved.

In November 2020, the Family Justice Council published a guide outlining how remote hearings and hybrid hearings (where there is a mixture of in-person and remote hearings) should be held.

There are many different options, the most suitable of which will depend on the circumstances and what sort of case is being heard, by which part of the court system.

  • Child safety is paramount, and consideration must be made to what information a child might be exposed to – for example, if a parent is recounting an abusive situation.
  • Video conferencing may be blurred to disguise the background from an abuser.
  • Vulnerable people may be allowed to join remote hearings via audio-only, and are not required to give evidence or attend via live video stream where this poses an issue.
  • Solicitors or lawyers may host video hearings from a neutral, safe space rather than attending from a private home.
  • Hybrid hearings can include the victim and their legal representation in the courtroom, with the abuser attending via a remote link – this is essential where the court does not have the facilities for separate entrances, waiting rooms and screens to protect the victim.

If you have suffered domestic abuse, and wish to explore the options to safeguard you during a family court hearing, do get in touch with our teams. There are many ways to protect your privacy and well-being, and the Elaine Parkes Solicitors experts can support you in implementing these measures.

Should you be concerned about forthcoming legal proceedings, and potential exposure to conflict due to an abusive situation, there is help available to keep you safe.

How Can Cafcass Help in a Domestic Abuse Situation?

Cafcass represents the interests of children in family courts and can decide what actions are necessary to protect young people’s interests.

They are an independent organisation, and work with, although separately from, the courts, health authorities and social services.

In some cases, the family court may ask Cafcass to assess a situation, which might involve interviewing both parents and children. There is a specific framework that Cafcass follows where domestic abuse has occurred or is suspected.

Family courts hear cases relating to matters such as child custody, adoptions, injunctions, and divorce proceedings, and Cafcass helps children through the process, often appointing a Family Court Advisor to assist.

If you are facing a legal situation with an abusive ex-partner or would like help navigating the family courts, Cafcass can provide support to alleviate any pressures and ensure your children are safeguarded throughout.

For more information and guidance about family court hearings, legal support following a domestic abuse situation, and professional advice to secure a successful outcome for you and your family, get in touch to arrange a good time to talk.

Reaching a Divorce Settlement – Private Arbitration vs Formal Court Proceedings

Reaching a Divorce Settlement – Private Arbitration vs Formal Court Proceedings

Reaching a Divorce Settlement – Private Arbitration vs Formal Court Proceedings

Divorce can feel like a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process involving costly court hearings.

The team at Elaine Parkes Solicitors works with a wide variety of clients across East and West Sussex. We always look for the best options for you, be that mediation, arbitration or something else that we feel will be a preferable resolution to enable you to move forward.

There are many benefits to considering private arbitration, not least being that the process usually provides a faster way to reach an agreement while courts remain closed or under limited capacity following the Coronavirus pandemic.

Let’s look at the difference between mediation and arbitration, and when these options are preferable to formal court proceedings.

What is the Difference Between Divorce Mediation and Arbitration?

Arbitration is a process where a couple meets with an independent Arbitrator, and works through negotiations. The Arbitrator will award a decision on any disputed issues.

Arbitrator’s Awards cannot usually be appealed. An arbitration process can be used alongside in-court proceedings if the divorcing couple has reached an impasse and needs assistance to reach a settlement.

Mediation is slightly different, in that the parties negotiate directly, and the Mediator does not have the power to make a decision.

Instead, they work with both divorcing people to reach a mutually fair decision.

Such hearings are private and can be used to negotiate the outcome of many aspects of a divorce, from financial considerations to making childcare arrangements.

Arbitrators are professionals, and usually experienced solicitors, legal executives, retired judges or barristers. You can choose which Arbitrator to appoint, which is valuable if there are specific issues that require expertise in that field.

Both divorce mediation and arbitration are usually carried out in a neutral place, such as a conference room at your solicitors’ office. Meetings can be scheduled at your convenience – rather than waiting for a court date to be assigned, which is heavily dependent on capacity and availability.

For many of our clients, the key benefit to arbitration or mediation is that it allows you to remain in better control of the process, and feels more manageable and less pressured than the formality of the court.

Most people going through a divorce try to balance the desire to have everything completed as quickly and smoothly as possible, while also making sure they reach the best outcome and achieve a fair distribution of assets – which is where these alternatives to court proceedings deliver.

Are There Advantages to Using Private Arbitration in Divorce Proceedings?

There are many different ways in which arbitration might be more appealing than a court hearing – some of the most common reasons our clients opt for arbitration include:

  • Reaching a resolution faster than waiting for a court date.
  • Being able to choose your Arbitrator based on your budget and any specific issues that require expert oversight.
  • Control of the situation, with the ability to decide which issues the Arbitrator will rule, meaning you don’t need to cover old ground on matters which you have already agreed upon.
  • Flexibility, with private meetings and scheduling appointments at your mutual convenience.
  • Confidentiality, a crucial factor for many divorcing couples who do not wish private information to be publicised or reported in the media.
  • Potential to save on costs – Arbitrators must, of course, be paid, but by restricting the process to those matters where you require an independent decision, you can reduce the time needed and reach outcomes more quickly.

We appreciate how tense a divorce can be, and never underestimate the need to have some elements of the process that you can stay in control of.

During a stressful period, being able to travel to our offices in Hastings or Brighton, rather than having to attend a fixed court date is often more convenient for all parties.

If you do need to attend court or require a hearing in addition to arbitration proceedings to agree on a specific point of contention, the appointed location will depend on what sort of issues are to be decided.

Usually, the Family Division of the High Court deals with matters of family law. That means being heard by a district judge in a County Court or Family Proceedings Court (a type of Magistrates Court with a speciality in family matters).

The Regional Divorce Centre covering Hastings, Brighton and much of the southeast is in Bury St Edmunds. Matters of family law relating to child custody are usually heard at Brighton County Court – although much depends on the situation and what type of issues require a court hearing.

There are options to have a Family Court hearing remotely, via video conferencing, in urgent situations – let us know if you require emergency support and we will assist you in finding the help you need.

You can find the nearest court to you by using the Gov.uk service online.

Is Private Arbitration Cheaper Than a Divorce Court Hearing?

Of the many considerations when going through a divorce, costs are always an important one.

While it may be essential to seek professional help to decide on property ownership rights or agree on how child custody is divided, it remains critical to be able to manage the financial burden associated with court hearings or legal fees.

Arbitration isn’t necessarily a cheap process, but given your ability to manage which issues are decided on by the Arbitrator, you can minimise the required time and reduce the overall costs.

Please note that you cannot get legal aid to appoint an Arbitrator, and that amount it costs depends on how long the proceedings take, where you live, and which Arbitrator you select.

However, divorce hearings can be substantially more expensive, and often run into thousands of pounds depending on the case’s complexity.

As a rough indication, a straightforward arbitration process can cost in the region of £1,000 – which you and your ex-partner will usually split as a shared expense.

The key to a successful arbitration is to appoint a professional who has sufficient experience in family law. The Elaine Parkes Solicitors teams in Hastings and Brighton can recommend outstanding local family Arbitrators, who offer flexible, efficient services to reach positive outcomes to finalise your divorce and reach a fair conclusion.

If you are interested in private arbitration or would like more information about how the process works, please get in touch. Our teams are always available to help guide you through your divorce options, with advice on the ideal proceedings for your circumstances.

Why Cohabitation Agreements are Crucial for Unmarried Partnerships

Why Cohabitation Agreements are Crucial for Unmarried Partnerships

Why Cohabitation Agreements are Crucial for Unmarried Partnerships

Families come in all shapes and sizes and living together as an unmarried couple, or house sharing with friends is common.

Here in the southeast, property prices continue to be among the highest in the UK, so purchasing your first home is a challenge for many people. Particularly in Brighton, shared ownership house purchases are a popular way of getting onto the property ladder.

While we’ve all heard of common law marriage, the reality is that an unmarried couple does not have the same financial rights as those in a civil partnership or marriage.

Let’s consider how cohabitation agreements work, and why they are vital to protect your interest in your home should anything happen in the future.

What are the Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement?

Many Elaine Parkes clients seek such an agreement when deciding to buy a property, or when another life event occurs, such as having children – but there is no bad time to think about your future.

Just as people with significant personal assets might consider a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement is a ‘just in case’ provision that ensures both you and your partner have security in place.

Many complex scenarios can arise where an unmarried couple separates, and own property together:

  • If you own a home together, then usually ownership will be presumed to be shared equally.
  • Should a property be in the name of one partner – which is common when a couple moves in together to an existing home – that individual retains the property’s legal ownership.
  • Non-legal claimants need to prove that they are entitled to a proportion of the home, and will need to file a claim under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. This process can be lengthy, expensive, and requires expert advice to stand a chance of being successful.
  • Rights to a property where your name is not shown on the deed must be evidenced by records of financial contributions and documentation that indicates that you were considered an equal owner of the property in effect if not officially.

Claims against a property owned in the name of an ex-partner are possible. Still, a cohabitation agreement is a sure-fire way to reduce the stress, time, and inspections of your personal finances that such a claim requires.

Agreements are also valuable in a rented property scenario. They ensure that both partners agree to things such as financial obligations, and who will take over the tenancy should the relationship come to an end – particularly if only one person is named on the rental agreement.

Which Areas are Covered in a Cohabitation Agreement?

Your agreement with your partner is personal to you – and can cover a wide range of areas.

The essential factor is to discuss what you’d like to include and make joint decisions about the agreement’s provisions.

All parties must understand what the agreement means and seek independent legal advice before signing. If you are unsure about the best structure for your cohabitation agreement, do get in touch, and the Elaine Parks Solicitors team can provide guidance.

Some of the conditions of a cohabitation agreement might relate to:

  • Property ownership and obligations to cover the associated mortgage or rental costs.
  • Financial assets including joint bank accounts, savings and pension schemes.
  • Other assets either bought while cohabiting or before the relationship.
  • Arrangements for children, such as contributing to costs and living expenses.
  • Who will house pets should the relationship break apart.

As you can see, a cohabitation agreement isn’t solely about your ownership rights to a property. It also covers many aspects of living together, including considerations about the rights of your next of kin.

Many partnerships also look at other safeguards, such as putting a Will in place alongside a cohabitation agreement.

Once you have a cohabitation agreement in place (which takes the form of a deed), you may need to update it should any significant events happen, such as selling a property, buying a substantial asset or having children.

Who Can Enter Into a Cohabitation Agreement?

This sort of deed isn’t solely for romantic couples that decide to live together – they are equally relevant for people who share a property in any other set of circumstances.

You can tailor your agreement as required, for example, including overseas assets, such as a holiday home, according to the law in the country where it is held.

Cohabitees who require an agreement might be:

  • Individuals who share a property.
  • Co-tenants of a home.
  • Friends or relatives that live together.
  • Co-parents who live in the same home but are not in a relationship.
  • Romantic couples who are not married or in a civil partnership.
  • People who rent a property together for business purposes.

Do I Have Automatic Rights to My Home if Cohabiting with an Unmarried Partner?

The reason a cohabitation agreement is crucial is that legislation is not always relevant to different living circumstances.

If one partner is named on a deed of ownership or tenancy agreement, it can take a significant amount of time to file a claim, should that relationship end.

In some cases, it can also be challenging to find evidence to show the intent of the original informal agreement. This must prove that, when you and a partner initially moved in together, your mutual understanding was that you both had the same rights to the property you shared.

Should a relationship break down be contentious, that might mean needing to submit bank statements or proof of financial transactions showing who paid the rent or mortgage payments, and which partner covered costs such as utility bills and council tax.

There is a Bill called the Cohabitation Rights Bill, which has been in circulation for several years – and had its first reading in the House of Lords back in February 2020.

In time, should the Bill be passed, it would mean that cohabitants have automatic financial protection, whether relating to cohabitants who have gone their separate ways, or when a person passes away and is survived by a cohabitant to whom they were not married or in a civil partnership with.

However, in the meantime, it remains vital for cohabiting partners to be proactive about protecting their rights and entitlements.

A cohabitation agreement is an excellent way to clarify exactly what those rights are, as a safety net for both partners.

For more information about cohabitation agreements, and what safeguards they offer, get in touch with the Elaine Parkes Solicitors team to arrange a good time to talk.

Ten Tips for Supporting Children Through Divorce

Ten Tips for Supporting Children Through Divorce

Ten Tips for Supporting Children Through Divorce

Divorce or separation, no matter how essential, can be profoundly challenging for all family members involved – and few feel the impact so significantly as children.

The team at Elaine Parkes Solicitors deals with all manner of separations and divorces, at every stage of the amiability spectrum.

We appreciate that every parent wants to ensure their children come out of the situation feeling safe, grounded, and confident that they know what the future holds.

While each family is unique, and every divorce will be a different experience, there are several things you can do to make sure your children know that they remain a top priority for both parents.

It’s also vital to remember that you are far from alone – and there are lots of resources and support groups out there who can provide valuable advice to assist your family throughout the divorce process.

  1. Consider Whether Children are Exposed to Divorce Conflict

In some cases, couples agree that they wish to divorce, and everybody remains on good terms.

However, it is extremely rare to have no animosity, particularly where financial settlements, child support payments, and dissemination of assets and custody are concerned.

The key here is to ensure that children are never exposed to contentious conversations, conflict, or arguments.

By limiting negotiations to an official setting, you both safeguard your children from unnecessary anxiety and can also maintain a friendlier relationship with your ex-spouse by protecting your homes as places of calm.

  1. Make Space to Discuss Your Children’s Feelings About the Divorce

No matter what emotions you might be experiencing your children will doubtless have their own. It is normal to feel sad, angry or upset – and these might be emotions your children have too and need to be able to sound out.

Children involved in a divorce can feel loss, worry, stress and confusion, and it is essential to let them share those feelings, and know that both parents understand how they feel.

By knowing what your child thinks, you are in a better position to co-parent as a united front, no matter what the situation in your relationship might be.

  1. Maintain Communication with Both Parents

One of the most common concerns of children is that they will lose something following a divorce – usually not seeing one parent, or living primarily with one person and not having as regular contact with the other.

Even if you and your ex-spouse are in agreement about where the best place is for your children to live, and you are satisfied that the decision is best for everyone, that does not mitigate worries that your child might be harbouring – and even trying to conceal for fear of upsetting their parents at a vulnerable time.

Try to do everything possible to keep up contact with both parents, and ensure your children know how and when they can speak to their Mum or Dad.

  1. Keep a Reliable, Consistent Routine

As a parent, you know that children are resilient and adaptable. If they know what is happening, when and how, they keep control of their understanding of the situation, which can alleviate a great deal of stress.

Be predictable, and agree to a routine that your children can become familiar with.

If they enjoy a regular weekly activity or visit their grandparents for Sunday lunch, for example, try to keep that up so that while some significant changes might happen in their lives, there are still other things that stay consistent.

  1. Expect Challenging Behaviour, and Have a Plan for How to Deal with It

Particularly if you are sharing custody, or have a co-parenting agreement in place, you need to make sure you and your ex-spouse are on the same page.

It is perfectly normal for children to act out during a divorce, with emotions running high.

There is every chance that a child will feel angry or perhaps act out of character to get attention if they feel insecure.

For both parents, agree on what your strategy will be.

Angry children need love, reassurance, and to feel safe, so make sure that they know that it is ok to cry or feel upset. Decide how you will manage bad behaviour so that your children still see both parents as a unit, even when they are living apart.

  1. Don’t Lose Touch With Other Family Members After Divorce

Spending time with your in-laws during and after divorce proceedings might not sound appealing. However, from a child’s perspective, remember that all their family members matter.

Think about how often your children see grandparents, family friends and other relatives, and build time into your schedule and routines to maintain that contact.

If arrangements for celebrations such as birthdays or Christmas are going to change, try to identify a good time to make a visit or allow relatives contact.

By doing so, children won’t worry that they will lose those valuable connections.

  1. Never Involve a Child in Disagreements or Negotiations

The ideal scenario is where a child has an equally loving, stable relationship with both their parents. While it might be intriguing to know what an ex-spouse is doing, particularly if you are going through tense settlement negotiations, your child is never the right person to ask.

Ensure that your children are never treated as a go-between, even if the intentions are good, and don’t ask them to take sides, or make a choice about who to live with if they aren’t emotionally mature enough to make that decision.

In some proceedings, the Family Court might ask a child to express a preference about their future living arrangements.

Still, it is usually best not to pressure a child to make such a massive decision unless the courts feel it appropriate.

  1. Be Honest With Your Children About the Divorce

It is natural for parents to shield their children from the reality of a divorce – but even young children will know something is happening.

The truth is often far easier to manage than any imaginary scenario they might conjure up, so always be truthful about the fact that their parents are divorcing.

Open, honest conversations can be tough but are vital to your children’s feelings of stability.

Suppose you have explained what is happening in as straightforward a way as possible and allowed your child plenty of time to think about it and ask any questions they may have. In that case, you are putting their feelings first and alleviating any stress that can arise from uncertainty.

If there is another adult in their lives that they love and trust, ask if they would be prepared to spend time alone with your children to encourage them to ask any other questions they feel unsure about asking their parents.

  1. Tell Your Children About the Divorce Together

Telling children that their parents are splitting up can feel overwhelmingly hard – but if you can tackle this conversation together, you set the tone for the future.

Consider how you tell them, what language you use, and how much information to disclose about the reasons behind the divorce, as this should always be age-appropriate and something they can understand.

Never place blame – even if there is a serious issue involved with the divorce. You need your children to feel informed about what is taking place, but not think that it is either parent’s fault.

  1. Seek Support – For Yourself And Your Children

Finally, remember that it is always braver to ask for help if you need it than to try and go it alone.

Divorce can be challenging for so many reasons, and if you feel that you are struggling to cope, or that your child isn’t managing the situation well, never hesitate to reach out for support.

Many agencies and organisations offer professional support, from counselling to talking groups, support hubs to parenting resources.

For further advice about making the experience of divorce manageable for your children, or recommendations for where to access support to steer you through the world of parenting while divorcing a spouse, do get in touch – we are here to help.

Lockdown Separations – How to Move Forward Successfully

Lockdown Separations – How to Move Forward Successfully

Lockdown Separations – How to Move Forward Successfully

Separating from any relationship at any time can be tough, emotional, and challenging.

Whether there are children involved, or property and joint ownership assets, unpicking your connection with somebody you have been close to is difficult at best.

Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, this situation may feel even more fraught. Hastings and Rother have gone from a summer of the lowest cases in the country to being a hotspot for surging incidents over the winter, and this climate of tension has poured over into many of our personal lives.

In this article, the Elaine Parkes Solicitors team has drawn up some advice and guidance to help you navigate a separation during the lockdown, with the benefit of our experience of ways to smooth the transition during such a tumultuous period.

Should you need further assistance, or a professional consultation concerning divorce proceedings, Family Court issues or any aspect of separation, do get in touch with our teams in Hastings or Brighton for a private discussion about how we can help.

Five Short-term Steps for an Amicable Separation During Lockdown

Initially, we would recommend looking at what you can resolve, rather than focusing on the bigger picture.

Lockdown restrictions and tiers are reviewed in most cases every two weeks, so there is no telling whether some things, such as selling a house, may become significantly more straightforward in the weeks ahead.

Let’s take a look at the immediacy of the separation, and what actions may be possible to provide some balance and calm and ensure that the separation can begin to move forward:

  1. Mortgage payments are often a significant issue in a separation, and similar concerns may apply to joint tenancies if you live in a rented property. In either case, we would advise contacting your landlord or mortgage provider. Many lenders can offer mortgage holidays, and there are options such as housing benefit, temporary accommodation and rental breaks to help you cope financially.
  2. Childcare arrangements are another primary factor where you have children together. It’s best to think about this straight away to avoid confusion or worry on your children’s part. Even if just a temporary agreement about where they will stay, taking action will help restore some control if you and your ex-partner know what the arrangement will be for now.
  3. Consider any social distancing impacts. If either you or your partner is self-isolating or has underlying medical issues that impact your ability to move into separate homes, you may need to think about alternatives. In some cases, there is support available, and if you do need emergency housing or are at increased risk of COVID-19 for any reason, reach out to the local authority for housing support – or give us a call. We’ll recommend the safest courses of action.
  4. Apply for benefit entitlements. Benefits can range from housing to council tax relief, and there is a range of support options open to residents across East Sussex, particularly vulnerable people. A separation can be emotionally and financially draining, so it’s always wise to check what benefits you are eligible for and use that help when you need it most to tide things over until you have finalised the separation terms. For example, if you and your ex-partner live together and one of you is moving out, you can apply for single person Council Tax relief. Other benefits include Universal Credit and tax credits.
  5. Think about banking arrangements – many couples have a joint account, and this practicality can be something much more manageable to remedy than might appear. Banks will have procedures in place to assist, and it’s best to act now to split out your income, savings and benefits to avoid creating a jumble of mixed finances later on.

If you’re finding the separation overwhelming, remember that these things can take time, and there needn’t be a chaotic rush to eliminate the presence of your ex-partner from your life.

By making lists and dealing with one factor at a time, you avoid adding to the inevitable stress of a separation and systematically manage those things you can deal with.

Separation Delays During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Given that much uncertainty surrounds many aspects of our lives right now, throwing a separation into the mix can feel like a lot to handle.

However, it’s worth remembering that divorce and separation proceedings can still proceed – even if some of the final details may be postponed until the Family Courts resume standard capacity.

The Elaine Parkes team can assist with any aspect of your separation agreement or divorce proceedings; there are lots of things you can do while respecting social distancing guidelines and lockdown instructions, for example:

  • Divorce applications can be submitted online via an online divorce portal at any time – so there is no need to postpone the initial application.
  • Some courts are closed or at reduced capacity. Therefore online applications are a faster method of beginning proceedings, and by getting your affairs in order via online and remote services in the interim, everything will be finalised quicker.

While Family Courts are open in some cases, there is likely to be a backlog over the coming months. Alongside that, if you require a divorce, there is a fixed waiting period of six weeks and one day between the Decree Nisi being granted, and the divorce petition moving onto the Decree Absolute stage where the marriage is officially dissolved.

Therefore, the best way to successfully move forward is to seek professional advice, have a clear idea of the timescales involved, and resolve any financial complications since a formal separation cannot conclude until such matters have been settled.

Considerations for Separating Couples Cohabiting During Lockdown

If you find yourself living together as a separated couple, and are unable to move due to lockdown, you can still reach some initial agreements – but it is vital to document why this situation has arisen.

In this case, please speak to our team about distinguishing your living arrangements on your statement required to apply for the Decree Nisi (the court order that confirms you are entitled to get divorced), or drawing up a Separation Agreement to lay out your respective terms and agreements.

This statement is essential, since typically where divorce is necessitated, a court will ask for information about your living arrangements, which for a separating couple usually means living apart with minimal communication.

By creating a statement that identifies why you have remained living in the same property but as a separated couple – due to limitations on movements due to localised lockdown restrictions, for example – you can avoid any unnecessary queries further on in proceedings.

Such a statement might explore factors such as:

  • Eating separately.
  • Being responsible for your own washing.
  • Sleeping in different rooms.

For more advice with separations during a lockdown and access to resources and support to help you through this difficult period, get in touch.

The Elaine Parkes offices are based in Hastings and Brighton covering all of the surrounding areas.

You can get in touch via email or telephone to discuss your separation, with many remote and digital options available to keep things moving, even during lockdown – so that you can take control of the situation, and start working towards a fresh start and a positive future.

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