The last 8 weeks has left us all feeling shocked, anxious and scared at times, with every one of our lives being severely impacted by the government restrictions, the fear of the infection, home education and for many, the financial anxieties and the general uncertainty which this situation has left us with.
One thing is for sure however, we are all in this storm together, however not all necessarily in the same boat, and for some, the implications are far harder than for others, including those in the midst of divorce proceedings.
Divorce is undoubtedly one of the most stressful times that someone can experience in their lifetime, a time of emotional and financial uncertainty at the best of times. Many will have embarked upon a divorce earlier this year or last year, with no idea of what lay ahead with Covid 19. Let’s face it – if someone had said to any one of us 12 months ago we would be in lockdown we wouldn’t have believed it. But here we all are, and whilst the last few weeks have been a whirlwind for us all, as we slowly enter into the phase of the “new normal” here are a few tips, questions answered and points of reassurance.
Can I still get divorced?
Yes, you can still get divorced. The Courts are still very much open for business, although on a restricted level to operate safely. This simply means that your divorce might take a bit longer than usual.
Where there are matrimonial assets, our usual advice remains, to delay applying for the decree absolute until the finances are agreed upon and incorporated into a consent order, or dealt with by the courts.
Matrimonial Finances – Will Covid19 affect my settlement?
If you are at the start of negotiations or proceedings, they can progress and continue, however you should proceed with caution. We don’t yet know what the full implications are going to be on the economy, and how this will impact upon house prices, investments and pensions. We also do not know how long this situation is going to be with us for. The make up of your assets will therefore influence on how much progress can be made at this stage. For example if you are dealing with two houses in the same area as your primary assets, any depreciation due to the current crisis will potentially be relative. If however you have a mix of assets, it may be more difficult to predict a global value so to achieve a fair and reasonable division of assets.
If you are well into negotiations and almost reached a settlement before Covid19 hit the UK, you should again proceed with caution, and may want to re-look at the settlement before incorporating into an order, especially where you have a mix of assets.
If you have pressing interim issues, for example maintenance that needs to be looked at then this can be, and should be, addressed as it would be normally.
Court hearings are taking place, either by telephone or video or web link to be able to deal with both interim issues and scheduled hearings where appropriate and possible.
Can we have our property valued and market our property?
It has just been announced that estate agents are able to reopen, and houses can be valued, whether that be by a visit to the property or using a desk top valuation. The government instructions have also changed so that viewings can take place, under very strict guidelines and in the first instance they should be virtual if possible.
Divorce and matrimonial finances can continue to progress but the economic repercussions of the virus must be at the forefront of our minds, and so we need to be mindful when making decisions. Just like all other areas of life, the way we are now going to do things and progress will be different for the foreseeable future.
Here at Boardman Hawkins and Osborne, whilst we are still not able to provide face to face consultations, all our solicitors are working hard to support our client’s in these difficult times and are happy to discuss matters either on the telephone or via video via one of the many platforms now widely available. We appreciate that these are testing times, and as well as being able to provide legal advice and representation we can also offer access to therapists to support you emotionally as you navigate through your divorce and negotiating a financial settlement
Helen Bishop, BH&O Consultant Solicitor