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Divorce and COVID-19: Can you get divorced during the pandemic?

The Court system and legal profession have changed rapidly since the first period of lockdown in March 2020. Even in a pandemic, there is no 'one size fits all' option available for divorce.

If you are looking to start divorce proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can still seek advice from a solicitor. There are various options available to you:

  • Online: the government’s new, user-friendly online divorce service offers a more modern solution to divorce. The system sends email alerts but cannot be used to resolve more complex issues, such as those relating to children, property, finances or pensions. Our team can advise you on submitting your application online.   
  • Paper: your solicitor can submit a paper divorce application on your behalf. As with online divorce applications, paper applications cannot be used to resolve issues relating to children, property, finances or pensions. Please note: the application will be sent to Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre, rather than your local or regional court.
  • Legal representation: you can also go through the divorce process with the support of a legal professional (know as ‘legal representation’). You may be required to attend a local court to issue a divorce or resolve issues relating to money or children. If you choose Emsleys to represent you, we offer various payment options including fixed fees and monthly instalments. If you divorce on a fault basis on unreasonable behaviour or adultery, you may be able to recover your fees from the other party.
  • Children issues: if your divorce is more complex, you may need to resolve issues relating to children. You are obliged to consider family mediation as an alternative to the court process, subject to specific exemptions (your solicitor can advise you). Most mediators are offering online mediation via video call. If mediation is not appropriate, the court service is still operating but largely via conference calls (unless the Judge specially directs that a hearing should take place in person or via video call).
  • Financial issues: if your divorce involves financial issues, you are obliged to consider family mediation as an alternative to the court process if matters cannot be agreed by both parties. If your case is resolved by the court service, possible options include conference calls, video calls and face-to-face hearings. Arbitration and private dispute resolution may also be offered as an alternative to attending court.

If you wish to divorce without the support of a solicitor, there are options available for you to start the process independently. As a member of the public, you can submit an online or paper divorce application for a fee of £550. Please note that the online and paper divorce services cannot be used to resolve disputes relating to children, property, financial or pensions. You can also divorce ‘in person’ without legal representation to resolve children, property, financial or pensions issues.

Emsleys Solicitors’ experienced and knowledgeable Family Law department is here to help. The team can guide you throughout the process of divorcing during the pandemic, keeping you informed at each stage and advising you on the new online systems. 

You can book a face-to-face appointment at our No.6 Colton Mill office, or we can arrange to discuss your case by phone or video call. Please call 0113 201 4902 or email family.law@emsleys.co.uk for a free initial discussion.

FAQs

  • Divorcing during the pandemic may be more fragmented. The Court service experienced significant delays between March and September 2020, but it is now getting back on track.

  • If you choose to seek advice from one of our solicitors, we can offer an initial consultation via a video conferencing platform, such as Zoom. At this stage, we will explain the divorce process and the options available to you. We understand speaking to a lawyer may feel daunting, so if you wish, you can invite a friend or family member to your first video appointment – please speak to our team for more details.

  • Most hearings are being dealt with using conference calls. If your hearing takes place via conference call, you will be asked to provide the court with your phone number. The court will phone you before the time of the hearing and your will be asked to state your name before joining the call with your solicitor/barrister (if applicable). The hearing will begin once the Judge joins the call. If some cases, the Judge may specifically direct that the hearing takes place in a different way eg via video call or in person. Face-to-face hearings are occurring with COVID-19 safety measures in place, whilst video hearings are taking place through CVP (a secure cloud system developed by the court).

  • Yes. There is a new online system for applications for financial matters. Once submitted, your case is allocated to a local court to be dealt with by a Judge. If you and your ex-partner have agreed on financial issues, you can also submit an online application for a clean break order.

  • You can pay your legal fees on the basis of ‘time taken’, i.e. an hourly rate, or you can ask us for a fixed fee. To help with your budget, we can arrange for fees to be paid by way of monthly instalments. We also offer ‘pay as you go’ and payment at the end of your case if you are financially eligible for a divorce or litigation loan. We will talk you through our full range of payment options.

  • An initial appointment at Emsleys for advice and information about divorce, separation, civil partnership, protecting wealth and assets prior to entering into a relationship, children issues and financial issues is free of charge. We don’t limit the time of the first appointment. We can discuss your options with you at this initial appointment. We confirm our charges and advice in writing and ask you to sign and agree to this before we undertake any work. You can pay us in monthly instalments and our charges can often be on a fixed fee basis, or if you would prefer, a time taken basis.

  • Arbitration and private dispute resolution may be offered as an alternative to a court hearing in order to resolve financial issues in a divorce. If you take this option, highly skilled members of the legal profession will make decisions in relation to your case.

  • The government’s new, user-friendly website allows divorce applications to be submitted online. It is not suitable for complex divorces and if something goes wrong (eg a spelling mistake in a name), it can be a lengthy and frustrating process to resolve. If you are looking to reduce costs associated with a divorce, you can divorce using the government's service and then seek advice from a solicitor about more complex issues such as money and children. Contact our team on 0113 201 4902 or email family.law@emsleys.co.uk for a free initial discussion.

  • If you live in Leeds, you may be asked to attend court in Leeds, Wakefield, York, Huddersfield or Bradford.

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