Partner Sarah Evans answers key questions the Coodes Solicitors Family team is currently receiving about the COVID-19 crisis.
Over the last few days, we have all made changes to our daily lives to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Family team, we have been advising our clients, who need our support and guidance to adapt to the changing situation. Here are answers to the most common questions the Family team is currently being asked.
1. I need legal advice. What should I do?
Please contact our offices in the usual way, by calling 0800 328 3282 or emailing Family@coodes.co.uk. In order to protect you and our staff, we are arranging telephone and Skype appointments at a time to suit you where possible.
We are continuing to operate effectively and are available to support you as usual. Find out more about what Coodes is doing to protect our clients and staff here.
2. Will I be able to obtain Legal Aid if I cannot come in to the office?
We understand that some of our clients will not currently be able to visit us in person. If you meet the criteria for eligibility, we can assist you in obtaining Legal Aid.
The Legal Aid Agency has published guidance on this issue.
If you are unable to come into our offices, we will post or email the forms to you, for you to complete and return to us. Where you need to provide evidence of your financial or other circumstances, you can send this to us by post or email to support your application.
If you think you will struggle to provide certain evidence that has been requested, please get in touch and we will help in any way we can.
3. I have a hearing coming up shortly. Will it go ahead and do I need to attend court?
The President of the Family Court, Sir Andrew McFarlane has issued guidance on how they are dealing with this specific issue.
With immediate effect, the default position is that all Family Court hearings should be undertaken remotely, via email, telephone, video or Skype.
However, a court-based hearing should take place where fairness and justice requires it, and it is safe to conduct one.
Whether a remote hearing should take place will depend on factors including the complexity of the case.
If your hearing is imminent, your lawyer will contact you to discuss the arrangements that apply to your particular case.
4. My child or someone else in my household has symptoms of coronavirus. Should I send them to see their other parent?
No, the Government’s guidance on self-isolation is clear. At the time of writing, you must self-isolate for seven days if you have:
- A high temperature or
- A new, continuous cough
If someone in your household has these symptoms you must self-isolate for 14 days.
The other parent should be fully kept up to date about the child’s condition and ideally arrangements should be put in place for alternative forms of contact, including Skype or telephone contact.
In light of the current unprecedented situation, we hope that the majority of parents will be understanding of these necessary precautions around direct contact. If, however, an agreement cannot be reached over the arrangements for a child, then please contact your lawyer to seek advice on obtaining a Child Arrangements Order to determine their living and contact arrangements. These orders can currently be applied for through a telephone or Skype hearing.
If you are not required to self-isolate in line with the current advice then the Government has confirmed tha,t at this time, the usual living and contact arrangements for children ought to continue.
5. I am a victim of domestic abuse. What support is available for me?
Many of our clients come to us because they need our help to escape domestic abuse. This is an especially difficult time for anyone in that situation.
We remain ready to support our clients, including helping them to secure non-molestation and occupation orders, child arrangements orders and prohibited steps orders as quickly as possible.
Please see my blog here for more details on how people in this situation can get support from us and other organisations.
This is an unprecedented and rapidly-changing situation. Our priority is to provide our clients with the best possible advice to guide them through these new challenges.
For more information or advice on any Family law matters, please contact the Family team at Coodes Solicitors: Family@coodes.co.uk