DATED: 16 SEPTEMBER 2020
Family Law specialist, Curtis Wray looks at the affect of COVID-19 on family court hearings and explains more about a fundamental forthcoming change in divorce law.
The new normal at Court
Since the COVID-19 lockdown the Family Law team at Girlings have been working remotely but remaining in close contact with clients and with each other to ensure we continue to deliver our family law services. We have remained fully operational, working from home from the start of the crisis.
The President of the Family Division reacted quickly issuing guidance so that family court hearings could still take place by way of telephone or video. On 24 March public guidance was issued in respect of child arrangements making it clear that children of separated parents could still travel between their two homes. Then in June the President issued “The Road Ahead” for the Family Courts of England and Wales as it is expected that the family courts will have to adopt this new normal of telephone and video hearings well into 2021.
As a family law specialist who has been awarded Higher Rights of Audience, unlike many other solicitors, I can appear like barristers in court and have been regularly representing clients at telephone hearings not only in the local courts here in Kent but also further afield since I joined Girlings in March.
New divorce law
In June we saw the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill conclude its passage in the House of Commons and then receive Royal Assent. A fundamental change in divorce law is due to come into force in the Autumn of 2021. As a member of Resolution, an association of family law professionals who have long campaigned for this outcome, along with my colleagues at Girlings and many other Family solicitors, I welcome the planned introduction of a “no-fault” divorce. The new legislation will allow couples to commence divorce proceedings jointly and avoid the current need to make allegations of unreasonable behaviour or adultery when divorce proceedings are to be commenced before a period of at least two years separation .