Mr Justice Mostyn, on the 17th March, issued a statement about how financial remedy cases should be dealt with in the light of the COVID-19 situation and Government guidelines. Clearly in these uncertain times the advice may change rapidly but here is the up to date position.
Unsurprisingly, now face-to-face hearings in courts will only happen when they are completely unavoidable. In other words, hardly ever until the crisis abates.
The default position is that there will be Skype hearings.
Documents should be filed electronically only. To prevent the risk of the virus passing by manual contact, documents should not be handed into the court.
There will be no need for First Appointments when routine matters can be agreed in a consent order, which judges are encouraged to approve routinely.
As for the mediation which takes place at Financial Dispute Resolution appointments (FDRs), private FDRs should now be arranged, and again they should take place via Skype.
Surely there will now be a torrent of arbitrations fixed to take place in order to cater for all those final hearings which are now going to be postponed.
There can be little doubt that we are now truly in the age of home working, and using technology for public benefit.
At the time of writing, the World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. A proportionate response is called for and you would be best advised if you are divorcing to carry out the following:
- reviewing the value of assets including real property and a review of businesses valuation before any settlement;
- reviewing, before a settlement, any valuations of pensions or superannuation funds particularly geared to investments in countries significantly affected.
There may also be an impact on applications to take children abroad on holiday or for permanent relocation, and the Family Court will need to take the coronavirus situation into account.
For information about divorce and how Covid-19 may affect your position please contact one of Alexander JLO’s expert divorce lawyers and see what we can do for you.