By Julius Brookman
It has been an interesting few months in the Family Courts but by no means quiet. In fact, quite the opposite. This article aims to highlight some of what has been taking place.
At the beginning of lockdown, there was a great deal of emphasis from the Family Courts on dealing with matters remotely.
The reality was slightly different with many cases being adjourned and some hearings being taken out of the Court lists. That said, both the judiciary and clients alike have managed to cope relatively well with the emerging changing situation since this country went into lockdown on 23 March.
One trend that may be very apparent from reading the popular press has unfortunately been a rise in domestic violence.
This has resulted in a number of enquiries in the Family Department. The Courts have prioritised applications made in relation to domestic violence and injunctions and a number have been made. As far as my personal experiences as a Practitioner are concerned, the Courts have done well in managing to hold telephone hearings.
That said, the picture across the board has not been entirely rosy with some Courts simply not responding or answering their phones or emails and others succeeding quite well at dealing with matters and/or limiting their time on the telephone. If you need the services of the Family Courts at any time or you know anyone who does, the good news is the position is improving and from the end of July there will be more physical hearings taking place and social distancing measures have been put in place across a number of courts.
A feature that regularly appeared in the Media is what is expected to be a rise in divorce rate at the end of lockdown.
In general, our Department has been exceptional busy with a number of enquiries so it should be said that the predicted rise in divorce enquiries has translated into reality. A particular problem also has been for non-resident parents in contact centres and nurseries have been closed so it has been quite hard to facilitate contact through what is normally an acceptable venue for contact itself to take place. An interesting sort of alibi that has taken place around the issue of contact has been that one parent will refuse to hand over a child on the basis that they are self-isolating or will need to self-isolate and so will the child. It is to be hoped that in the next few months with the opening up of businesses and easing of lockdowns, this will be less of a problem although it will of course depend on how quickly we emerge from the current public health crisis.
If you any questions or know anyone who could be assisted by a member of the Family Law Team, please do get in touch with Julius Brookman on 020 7632 1444.