Working From Home LogoFamily life goes on…

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things but the work of a family lawyer continues. Let’s look at three key areas of family law:

Domestic abuse

As the Women’s Aid charity states;

Covid-19 does not cause domestic abuse, only abusers are responsible for their actions”.

Unfortunately though, the virus and lockdown is likely to put vulnerable people at an increased risk of harm. It may also feel more difficult to leave an abusive relationship or to move out of a property.

Help is still available. A family lawyer can advise you on whether to apply to court for a Non-Molestation Order, which is a Court Order which can keep you and your children safe from an abusive ex-partner or relative. We can also discuss Occupation Orders, which are Orders which can control who can or cannot remain living in a property for a period of time. In some situations we can apply for these without the other person knowing about them in the first instance. Legal aid is available depending on the situation and your financial means.

The Women’s Aid website has other useful information and resources for people who are suffering with domestic abuse. It has a quick “exit site” tab on the side of the web page and gives information on how to search for advice and support using a private browser:

Social Services

In situations when social workers think that your child is at risk of harm, they may make an application to court. This is called Care Proceedings. We represent parents and other relatives in Care Proceedings. Court hearings are still going ahead by telephone or by Skype so it is very important that you seek legal advice if social services make an application to the court. For parents in these cases legal aid is always available.

Contact for non-resident parent or in shared-residence situations

The legal position is that, despite lockdown, where parents do not live in the same household, children can be moved between their parents’ homes. However, if people have, or are displaying symptoms of coronavirus, then they will need to isolate in line with government guidelines, and all handovers should be done in line with the government’s rules on social distancing. It also doesn’t mean that children have to move between their parents’ homes. Parents should try to resolve matters sensibly and by agreement. If you have a court order, you can alter this by agreement without having to go back to court. Although one parent can exercise their Parental Responsibility and change arrangements to one which they consider to be safe without the agreement of the other, this may be challenged in court at a later date so all decisions should be made reasonably and thinking of the child’s best interests.

Normal legal aid rules still apply for these cases so you may be eligible depending on the means and merits of the case.

The family court has adapted very quickly to the Covid-19 situation and with the use of telephone and Skype court hearings, in many situations it is business as usual. Our solicitors are still working so do get in touch.

Tim BurtTim Burt
Solicitor in the Family Department.