There is no doubt that the current working and social restrictions, in place because of COVID19, will delay divorce proceedings. The Courts are effectively closed at the moment for all but urgent matters.

Divorce and Separation, as well as general access and maintenance matters are not categorised as urgent. So, these family law cases before the courts have been adjourned to a future date.

In reality, most cases may not be listed for at least another 2 months, if not longer. That is, unless video hearings or other alternatives are introduced. When restrictions are lifted, the challenge for the courts will be to manage a double case load. Bear in mind that the family law courts are already operating with pressured resources.

Can I Advance my Divorce with the Courts Closed?

The court closures, however, should not prevent all progress in your separation or divorce. There are many ways in which most cases can be moved along, without losing time. In fact, this may be an opportune time to look at some alternatives to a disputed court hearing.

If you are in the midst of a Divorce or Separation, you can still take the following steps:

  • Stay in touch with your solicitor. Arrange a phone consultation and establish what you can still work on while you are at home.
  • If court paperwork has just been drafted, take time to review this now, and prepare any amendments. If paperwork can be finalised, Divorce or Separation applications can still be submitted to the court office. It just means that court hearing dates may not yet be given for a while.
  • This may be the time to review your Financial Statements (Affidavit of Means). You can update it, and gather together the vouching documentation which your solicitor will require.
  • If you have received paperwork from your ex, then take time to review this in full. Jot down your responses and collate the information for your solicitor.
  • If you are in the midst of negotiating long term access, take the time to consider all the varieties of access plans which could be suggested. Your children may not be able to see your ex, or grandparents at this time of restrictions. So, consider how this lack of contact has impacted on your children, when planning for the long term.
  • Arrange a phone or video consultation to chat with your solicitor about settlement options. Maybe now is the time to consider reaching out and offering some proposals for an agreement. Remote settlement talks may be an option, but at a minimum, your solicitor can draft proposals and send them by email. Even if the proposals aren’t agreed, you may be able to narrow down the items in dispute.
  • All the advance preparations you make now will assist in your eventual Divorce Hearing.

Can I Initiate Divorce Proceedings During the Coronavirus Crisis?

If you are considering Divorce or Separation, you can still move forward. We are still working, albeit differently, and so are other solicitors. Therefore, you can still arrange a first consultation with a solicitor to obtain initial advice and guidance. This can be done by phone or video call. Information is key. We have yet to meet with a client who is not in some way relieved following an initial consultation. They are at least going away with a general roadmap for the options ahead.

If you have any queries about how to initiate or advance divorce or separation proceedings, please email me at alan.finnerty@orpenfranks.ie