It’s hard to think of a life event not placed on hold by the pandemic, and divorce is no exception.
Once lockdown began in March 2020, the family courts in Northern Ireland endeavoured to keep family cases moving forward, and jumped as quickly as possible to hearings by video for any urgent matters. Unfortunately as divorce is not considered as urgent as other family proceedings, those cases got left behind and, just like all others plans in the last 12 months, divorce had to be put on hold.
After a few months the court service did begin to test run undefended divorce hearings by video. An undefended divorce is a divorce that is not opposed by the other spouse in any way. Thankfully this trial run was successful, and was rolled out to all divorce courts. In October, the court extended these hearings to defended divorce hearings and began making inroads on the backlog of cases.
So what does this mean for you if you’re trying to get divorced during lockdown?
Unlike last year, the court office is accepting new court applications for divorce and will issue proceedings. Issuing proceeding will just take a little longer to process given the current circumstances. Your solicitor can serve the proceedings on your spouse once these have been returned from the court office.
Most solicitors are taking telephone or video consultations, so your spouse will be able to arrange a remote appointment to discuss the papers and decide how to respond. If they don’t, you can still apply to the court to proceed with your divorce.
Once your case is ready for hearing, the court office will send details of your video hearing to your solicitor, and will request that you attend at your solicitor’s office to participate in the hearing.
At Edwards & Co. Solicitors we offer telephone and video consultations for all clients. We have robust measures in place in our office in line with government regulations in respect of social distancing. All divorce hearings are held in our boardroom, allowing for comfortable surroundings, socially distanced, on what we know is a difficult day.
Julie Tierney leads our family department, and specialises in divorce proceedings. If you would like to make an appointment to discuss moving forward with divorce proceedings contact Julie here.