We are all going through an unprecedented situation which we understand will be a cause of worry and concern for many including our colleagues and our clients.
We have set out below some basic guidance on how you can deal with getting through this time. Our guidance is based on information that has been released to date, and the guidance is updated / changed on a regular basis - we therefore recommend that you read this guide alongside the governments guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
The courts have moved all but the most essential hearings to telephone or video hearings. There will undoubtably be hearings which the court will have to adjourn until a later date, and your solicitor will keep you advised of any change to hearing dates and venues.
The courts continue to accept applications, although we expect a delay to the time between an application and any hearing date, except for the most urgent of matters such as domestic abuse issues.
We would always advise that you keep an eye on your legal rights and options and try not to let the current crisis have an impact on proceeding with any discussions, negotiations, seeking legal advice or pursuing court proceedings where necessary.
Our entire team continue to work remotely and offer telephone or video meetings and would recommend for you to get in touch if you require any advice or assistance regarding your family matters.
During the "Stay at Home" lockdown, the government has clarified that children can move between their parents' household for arrangements - which we understand to be both living arrangements, and spend time with arrangements.
If there is a court order in place, parents should use their best efforts to comply, or if they cannot due to illness or isolation, for there to be alternative arrangements in place so that children continue their relationship with their parents.
As the President of the Family Division stated in his recent guidance, "The key message should be that, where Coronavirus restrictions cause the letter of a court order to be varied, spirit of the order should be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child", and we would expect all parents to be reasonable and accomodating during this time.
If you are having issues with arrangements for your children, we are here to help. Our details are below and you can send us a message, email us or call us for assistance.
There are various ways in which you can review your finances to ensure that you are able to meet your needs and obligations:
Income - The government has announced a specific package of support for employers to avoid losing staff during this time. The government grant provides employees who have been "furloughed" (ie. remain as employees, but do not work) of 80% of the employee's salary up to a maximum of £2,500 per month - currently for a period of three months from 1 March 2020, but could be extended. This can assist in avoiding termination of contracts or redundancies.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) - As of 13 March 2020 Statutory Sick Payments for people in isolation or diagnosed with Coronavirus from the first day of isolation / illness up to 28 weeks.
Self-Employment - At time of writing, the government has not announced any specific grants to assist self-employed people. They are currently being guided towards applying for benefits, where they have reduced the minimum income level for benefits assessments. It is also expected that this will be reviewed shortly.
Benefits - Anyone who is not working should consider applying for state benefits which can include Univseral Credit, Tax Credits, Employment & Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance.
Mortgage Repayment Holiday - Many banks are offering this to their customers and if you are having trouble meeting your mortgage payments we strongly suggest you get in touch with your mortgage provider immediately. A mortgage repayment holiday will allow you to take a break from payments for a limited time, and for these payments to be apportioned over some months when your recommence payments.
Rent Payments - There is currently no new provision for this, other than housing benefit / housing payments through Universal Credit. We would strongly suggest you speak to your landlord if there are issues in meeting your rent payments. The government has announced a ban on evictions from social housing, as well as privately rented accommodation during this crisis. This ban also extends to possession proceedings. Whilst there is no new package to assist rent payments, mortgage repayment holidays have been extended to cover buy-to-let mortgages to assist landlords.
Credit Cards / Person Loans - repayment holidays are being provided by some loan providers and we would recommend you check with your creditors. As with mortgage repayment holidays, your outstanding debt will increase and you will need to consider this once the repayment holiday ends.
Bills & Utilities - There is no specific assistance with these, but we would suggest checking that you are on the most cost-effective policy using various comparison websites and to consider cancelling any services you do not require.
Budget - We would recommend looking at your budget. It is expected that most people can make some significant savings during this time, such as on child-care costs and travel costs if you are working from home.
Businesses - The government has announced many measures to help business through the crisis, including:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
Statutory Sick Pay relief package
12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses
Various grants for small businesses
Coronavirus Business Interrruption Loan Scheme
Business owners should look into what support is available and assess this alongside their own circumstances, and seek legal advice if they are unsure of their options and what may be in their best interests.
Maintaining your mental and physical well-being is important and you should take some time out of your day to exercise and get some fresh air (alongside the governments guidelines) as well as to take a break (if you are working from home).
If you are concerned about yourself, or others, some helplines can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
During uncertain periods like this, many people take some time out to think about what is important in their lives and to mitigate around the situation. A few things we would advise you to think about:
Wills & Inheritance - If you have properties or assets, whatever size, you should always have a Will in place to ensure that your assets and estate are distributed according to your wishes when you pass way. It is also important for cohabiting and unmarried partners to have a Will in place as there is no automatic right to inherit from your unmarried partner should they pass away. We can now assist with Will writing and you can read more about this here
Power of Attorney - In the event that you are incapacitated or are incapable of making decisions for yourself, you would want to ensure that decisions regarding your health, as well as property and finances, are dealt with properly. A Lasting Power of Attorney can be prepared to ensure that trusted people are in place should you need this. We now offer a Power of Attorney service and you can read more about this here
If you would like more information or advice about the issues, or require advice in relation to any areas of family law, please contact our expert legal team on 0208 004 0065, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the form below.
The contents of this article is general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.