Latest Family Q&A on COVID-19 measures

As we enter an intensive phase of the UK government’s containment measures for the COVID 19 outbreak, many couples and families now facing extended periods of social distancing and isolation. This will place a heavy burden for couples undergoing separation and divorce, often requiring full attention to childcare duties while schools remain closed.

Our family team answer some Q&A’s around this topic and things to consider:

I have been cohabiting with my partner for over a year and am worried about my situation should there be a break down in our relationship. We have always been focused on our jobs but the current situation presents a challenge as we are now both forced to spend a lot more time together than before. Should I worried about my rights?

We continue to campaign for the need to have urgent reform for couples who have lived together for a period of time, to enjoy certain right, as the position under English law is very different for married couples. The lack of legal protection is now accentuated when couples are confined to living under strict government restrictions.

We offer a full range of services to provide protection to those couples who wish to enter into agreements to regulate what happens when they live together and if their relationship ends

For further information please visit our cohabitation services page

Advice for people cohabiting who do not currently have a Will?

 Many cohabiting couples do not fully understand their legal rights should their partner pass away. A cohabitee living with their common-law partner does not automatically inherit the property if the one of them die. The concept of ‘common law marriage’ is not recognised under English law. Cohabiting couples have very limited legal rights when it comes to claiming a share of their partner’s assets upon death. In fact, the only way a surviving common-law partner can inherit a shared property in the deceased’s sole name is if the deceased has clearly stated in their Will that the property will pass to their surviving partner when they die.

Statistically, very few people have a will. Those that do usually have a ‘home-made’ wills, with no proper legal advice, can then give rise to legal disputes between family members about their validity.

When people do have a will and their relationship has broken down, they need to think about adjusting their living arrangements. If the property is in joint names they need to sever the joint tenancy.

My partner and I are separated with children. Can my partner still insist on spending time with children during this pandemic?

Children of separated parents can move between households during the coronavirus lockdown but it is best to get bespoke advice depending on the circumstances of each situation. It comes after minister Michael Gove reportedly “U-turned” on advice given to families following the introduction of strict new laws designed to keep people indoors (read full story here)

For further guidance, please visit Cafcass or contact a member of our team today.

My son is on holiday with my ex-wife and is now stuck due to travel restrictions. What can I do?

This is a very difficult situation for the many UK citizens that are stuck abroad and unable to return home to the UK. The government has now announced that foreign office officials are working with major airlines, to arrange commercial flights to bring home UK citizens stranded in different parts of the world.

For further information on this please check the Foreign office’s latest travel advice

Use of video-conferencing and delays to the court system? How will this work with deadline? What is our advice to clients or those looking for help?

The systems being put in place can work if people are prepared to adopt them, although there is an element of them being voluntary. Litigants in person without legal representation may find this more difficult without easy access to technology. Digitalisation is feasible and the outcome of this crisis is that a number of previously largely untested processes such as Court videoconferencing are likely to be adopted on a permanent basis.

As a firm, our ability to provide a good service has not been affected, as we have the access facilities to allow our team to continue working remotely.

Do I have to continue paying child maintenance and support?

The government has not provided further guidance on how this will work so it’s difficult to predict yet what approach will be adopted in the current situation.

Many may find protection through the Government’s financial packages, which although not universal and may not cover a full salary or earning, should be sufficient to cover basic expenses during the current period of isolation and social distancing from others.

Parents will need to work together to ensure that their children are best looked after.

Advice for couples now forced to stay indoors?

Whilst the current situation is particularly challenging, many understand the need to work together in this difficult time and help respect each other’s privacy. Finding amicable solutions to differences with your partner could significantly improve the prospects of success of such arrangements.

This situation is unique. People have never been restricted to this extent during peacetime. Parents are being encouraged to use technology to allow their children to have regular time with other children and for parents to share homeschooling ideas with other parents. Greater use of video conferencing and social media tools is a practical application of government advice that people need to communicate more and stay in touch.

The use of a family therapist could be considered, to help outline a home working arrangement, allowing both to be able to work and exercise in the same space. We work with many therapists.

We are fully operational remotely and are working hard to provide the best possible service for our clients. Most courts are still open and dealing with cases so it will not stop any ongoing proceedings but action may be needed to ensure that they are heard remotely. For further information on the above and all family issues, please contact a member of our team.

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