Lawyer provides advice for families in crisis, as domestic abuse soars during lockdown

Following reports that domestic abuse cases have soared as a result of strains placed on families by the coronavirus lockdown, solicitor Rosie Eastwood from leading regional law firm Furley Page explains what the relaxation in lockdown measures means for family law. 

Rosie said: “The pandemic and ongoing lockdown have placed families under tremendous pressure; we have seen a significant increase in enquiries concerning child related disputes, and there has been a rise in reported domestic abuse cases throughout the UK.

It is therefore vital that families are aware that, despite the lockdown measures in place, there are still many support services available, and that measures have been put in place to make support easy to access in light of the recent relaxing of measures.

Domestic abuse

Refuge, the charity which runs the national domestic abuse helpline, has seen a 10-fold increase in visits to its website in the past two weeks, as the pressures of lockdown intensify pre-existing behaviours in an abusive partner.

Rosie continued: If a spouse or partner is abusive or threatening, help is available and anyone affected should contact the Police. This type of conduct is often not limited to physical violence and can include intimidation, harassment or someone being coercive and controlling towards you.

In such circumstances, an application can be made to the Family Court for an injunction‘Non-Molestation Orders’ protect against the abuse by preventing both direct and indirect contact, and can place zonal restrictions on the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, ‘Occupation Orders’ are also available in certain circumstances, to regulate the occupation of the family home, which could include the exclusion of one party from the property. Such applications are deemed urgent so are still being heard as a priority by the Courts to ensure protection is urgently provided to those individuals who need it.

Child arrangements

Rosie continued: “We’ve also received enquiries from individuals who feel their ex-partner is exploiting the pandemic to make contact with their children difficult, and from those who are concerned about their children visiting their other parent because of the risk of contracting Covid-19. 

“Where parents are facing such disputes, there are tools available to help. Recently CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) launched its Co-Parenting Hub which provides useful resources and information to enable separated parents to navigate the minefield of co-parenting after separation.

Should separated parents be unable to agree who the child or children should live with, or the frequency of time which should be spent with the other parent, they are encouraged to seek guidance from a family mediator. These are specially trained professionals who provide a neutral viewpoint to assist parents in reaching resolutions. 

Many mediators in Kent are carrying out mediation sessions via telephone or video link during the crisis, so parents are still encouraged to utilise this service where appropriate.

Rosie concluded: “Where mediation is not suitable, or the dispute is simply too complex to be settled in this way, parents may have to look to the Court for resolution.

It is important to be aware that irrespective of what the wider press may have you believe, the family Court remains open, albeit largely practising on a remote basis with hearings being heard via telephone or video link. Urgent cases are understandably being heard as a priority, whilst other applications such as child arrangements, are being listed for hearing. Individuals are encouraged at this time to use the online portal to make non-urgent applications.

Furley Page’s Family Law team has a wealth of experience in child arrangement and domestic abuse related cases. Should you wish to discuss your situation with us, please telephone 01227 763939 for assistance.

You can also follow the firm on Twitter @furleypage and on LinkedIn.