Covid-19 Divorce Backlog and Mediation - Marcia Mediation

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Research reveals more than a quarter of British couples who are contemplating divorce may have delayed proceedings due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In April 2020, with the UK in lockdown, YouGov surveyed 1,005 British adults who had previously divorced, to find out if they would have done things differently if their divorce had fallen within the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nearly three in ten (28%) said they would have been less likely to continue divorce proceedings during lockdown, including around a quarter of women and a third of men.

Just 8% of women said they would have been more likely to take their divorce forwards during lockdown – and only 3% of men said the same.

The survey was conducted on behalf of divorce finance provider Ampla Finance, with the results reported by The Independent in July.

Negotiating divorce in a pandemic

With a likely divorce backlog to catch up on and the courts under huge pressure due to the limitations of social distancing, it’s an important time to consider alternative ways of negotiating divorce in a pandemic.

In June 2020, Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Family Division of the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, published a report titled ‘The Road Ahead’ for the Family Court in England and Wales.

He noted some of the challenges facing the family courts at present and how alternative dispute resolution methods including mediation can help to keep cases progressing.

Sir Andrew wrote: “In all family cases, regard should always be had to alternative means of dispute resolution.

“At a time when it is clear that the court will struggle to cope with the volume of cases in a restricted working environment, it is all the more important that parties, legal advisors and the judiciary should have express regard to all forms of non-court dispute resolution including mediation, conciliation or arbitration.”

Why are the courts under pressure?

The family courts are facing a backlog not only of divorce proceedings, but of other postponed cases too.

On top of that, they must work within the limitations imposed by the pandemic:

  • A need to conduct remote hearings wherever possible
  • Limited capacity for face-to-face hearings
  • Difficulty processing cases due to social distancing
  • Very high workloads with backlogs to clear
  • Likely that conditions will remain tough for many months

All of this means the courts have less time for each case, so couples negotiating divorce during the pandemic may be wise to seek alternative methods before taking their agreement to court to be finalised.

Divorcing faster during the pandemic

Sir Andrew explained: “There will need to be a very radical reduction in the amount of time that the court affords to each hearing.

“Parties appearing before the court should expect the issues to be limited only to those which it is necessary to determine to dispose of the case, and for oral evidence or oral submissions to be cut down only to that which it is necessary for the court to hear.”

With all of this in mind – particularly in light of the divorce backlog that needs to be dealt with – our mediators are ready to help separating couples reach an agreement through mutual consent, which can then be simply approved by the court.

If you are considering divorce, or if your divorce has come to a halt, contact us to see mediation can help as an alternative or in the interim.