21 April 2020

Breaking-up during the lockdown: where do we go from here?

By Rob Colwell, Director and Head of Family Services, Hayes + Storr.

As many of us are finding out, self-isolating even with family we love can be tough at times. With nearly 50% of all marriages in England ending in divorce, many families self-isolating are currently in the middle of painful separations and are likely to be feeling despair at what to do next and where to go.

If your relationship is breaking down

If your relationship has broken down irretrievably and living together has become intolerable, the best option might be for you to physically separate. This could come at extra financial cost with two accommodations to run but it may be the best option.

Moving out during the lockdown

Moving out during the lockdown could be difficult but it is not impossible and is the best option if your mental or physical safety is at risk.

Your housing rights will depend on what type of housing you live in, and whether you are married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership.

When children are drawn into conflict

Sadly this has become so commonplace, that it is increasingly being recognised as a form of child abuse. When one parent prevents the other from having a reasonable relationship with their child, it is known in family law proceedings as ‘parental alienation’ or ‘intractable hostility’ and is considered extremely damaging to the child.

What’s best for the children?

It is in your child’s best interests to continue seeing you both regularly, unless there are genuine safety reasons not to. There are no set rules about what the arrangements for children should be. It is up to you and the other parent to make an arrangement that works best for your child.

Abusive partners who refuse to leave

Government guidance confirms that isolation and social distancing measures do not apply to victims of domestic violence. If waiting isn’t an option, get out and find a place of safety. Remember, it is a parent’s duty to protect their children.

If your partner is violent and refuses to leave, a solicitor can help you apply for an order for you to stay in the home, and to make your partner leave.

Where do we go from here?

A good solicitor will encourage couples to attend mediation meetings which can be achieved during the lockdown using Skype or a virtual round table discussion led by solicitors. Be open-minded. If it means you walk away with an agreement you can both live with, it will save a huge amount of stress, time and money on court costs.

Going to court

You must show that you’ve tried mediation before applying to court. In the current crisis, court cases are being adjourned or dealt with remotely and should always be seen as a last resort.

With the average divorce even before the lockdown taking over 12 months due to government cuts, many couples are choosing to recognise a financial agreement in the interim with a separation agreement, which can take only a matter of weeks.

Couples don’t need to put their lives on hold

Solicitors are still offering confidential legal advice during the lockdown by telephone or video call. Hayes + Storr offer a reduced rate fixed fee for initial advice. Call Rob Colwell on 01328 850729 to find out how we can help.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.