How to Get a Divorce During the Pandemic
14 Dec 2021
Getting a divorce is seldom straightforward, but the Covid-19 pandemic has brought added complications. Here we’ll explore how to apply for a divorce in England during Covid, running through the logistics of ending your marriage at a time when restrictions may affect the usual divorce process.
The current Covid situation in England
The information in this article concerns how to get a divorce in England. At the time of writing, most coronavirus restrictions in England have been lifted: there is no legal requirement to socially distance, but people are urged to work from home again. There are some changes to the system, however, which were implemented during the pandemic and remain in place, such as the new online divorce application service.
It is also possible that some restrictions will return, potentially limiting your ability to do things like have face-to-face meetings, attend Court or move house. Because of the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, the information given here could change: we would always advise you to check the latest situation at gov.uk/coronavirus.
Decide which type of divorce you want
Lockdown has been a difficult time for many married couples, and it’s no surprise that it prompted a surge in divorce queries through 2020 to 2021, as relationships were tested and people re-evaluated their priorities. But despite the pandemic being one of the more common triggers of divorce in recent times, it is possible to have an amicable divorce if both parties are willing.
One option is a collaborative divorce that is settled out of court, discussing the details between you, with the help of a trained family lawyer to represent each side. Alternatively, you can choose to minimise the direct contact that you have with each other and opt to make arrangements solely through your lawyers. If you have children together, you will need to agree on child arrangements, deciding who will have custody of the children.
Consider the logistics of a divorce during the pandemic
There are a few things to consider when planning a divorce during Covid.
Online divorce applications
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Court introduced a new online divorce application service. Once one party (the petitioner) has completed the online application, their spouse (the respondent) will receive an electronic notification prompting them to log in and confirm their details. If the divorce is undefended, the petitioner can then apply for the decree nisi. (Note that it’s still possible to apply for a divorce using a paper application, but this may take longer.)
Online divorce applications are useful for straightforward divorce cases so aren’t suitable if, for example, you have a dispute relating to finances, pensions, property or children.
Family mediation consists of a series of meetings to help you settle any disputes and come to an agreement about the arrangements you will make for after the divorce. In normal times, this happens in person at a neutral venue, but it’s possible that your mediation sessions could be arranged by teleconference instead. You may even find this easier than being in the same room with your spouse.
Delays and uncertainty
We have been living through an unprecedented time of uncertainty, and this has put many families under financial pressure. It’s worth thinking particularly carefully about the financial impact of a divorce during this time.
In addition, due to the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, there is a considerable backlog of cases coming before the Family Court, which could lead to delays and extra legal costs in obtaining your divorce. However, with a collaborative approach, this could be mitigated: many divorcing couples are keen to work together on an out-of-court divorce for a quicker resolution.