Family Law and Covid19 – how can I separate during Covid19 Lockdown?

“A tidal wave of separations will turn into a Tsunami post Covid19” – this is the prediction that Caroline Counsel Family Lawyer and Accredited Family Law Specialist appeared on 3AW Breakfast this morning with former lawyer Ross Stevenson and marketing guru Russel Howcroft to discuss the impact that Covid19 on relationships. 

Caroline commented that some clients have not been able to spend one more day in an intolerable situation and have left but many are stuck, unable to use outside resources to escape.  Hence the prediction that when Covid19 restrictions lift, many of those who have been waiting will make the leap and leave. 

As Caroline Counsel also holds the Family Violence portfolio for the Law Institute and gave evidence at the Victorian Royal Commission in relation to family violence, she is acutely aware of the devastating effect that being in a toxic family situation is having on the victims of family violence and their children.  In relation to the children, they are the ones who unable to escape their family situation – the usual outlets have been closed to them – no school, no ability to leave the home and go to friends, unable to escape outside.  The victim survivors of family violence have also been trapped and unable to escape the coercive controlling behaviour of their partners who perpetrate violence using the strictures of Covid19 to add yet another layer of control.

In relation to legal assistance and advice, Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers has been operating remotely since the outset of Covid19 and this means we can assist families which are in the process of separating.  Wherever possible, we are using experts (psychologists and counsellors) and agencies to support those families who want to separate in a safe and respectful way.  When respect is lacking and the separation is problematic, Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers have been using the virtual court processes which the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia to protect our clients and promote the best interests of their children. 

For those clients who want to get through separation as quickly and as amicably as possible, then mediation is a faster route to settlement than Court.  Mediation has long been used in family law matters and provided the parties are ready to mediate and there has been proper disclosure and valuations of assets conducted, this can be a highly useful and usually successful process.  We are careful about when to recommend mediation as timing is everything in terms of whether the parties are ready to mediate and have all they need to be able to make decisions.

Arbitration is also a way of offering clients a more formal approach to problem solving and is a process managed by the Arbitrator with input from the lawyers.  It can be a process akin to a court process in that parties can give their version of events and this can be tested by the other party.  Alternatively, if the issue is dispute is a discrete issue, then the Arbitrator can be asked to adjudicate based on the papers meaning there is no hearing before the Arbitrator. 

Covid 19 has led to delays in the Court system and more clients are turning to mediation or arbitration to bring their matters to a conclusion without the months or years of litigation and the costs associated with that pathway. 

“Whatever the individual’s situation, advice is the best place for them to start and preferably they should obtain that advice before they separate.  We can help after the event but find that clients who have advice they need ahead of time usually manage the separation conversation better and this can lead in turn to a better outcome overall” says Counsel.

If you need help in separating and do not know where to start or if you are part of the way through the process and want a fresh approach, contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers to get tailor made advice which best suits your situation.

The information in this blog does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by you. If you require advice specific to your situation you must contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers. The contents of this blog are relevant as at 14 October 2020.  We recommend you obtain specific advice relevant to you and your family’s situation.

Caroline Counsel

Principal + Accredited Family Law Specialist

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