Stockport law firm, SAS Daniels LLP, warns that court delays due to lockdown could be affecting child welfare in the North West. The firm is calling for changes to be made to court proceedings to reduce the negative impact on families across the region.
Following the announcement of lockdown measures due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the work of courts and tribunals was consolidated into a network of priority courts across the UK. As a result, just 157 priority court and tribunal buildings were open for essential face-to-face hearings, representing 42% of the 370 crown, magistrates, county and family courts and tribunals across England and Wales.
With such a diminished capacity, SAS Daniels has seen a negative impact on families with many proceedings severely delayed.
Shelley Chesworth, Head of the Family team at SAS Daniels LLP comments:
It’s a sad reality of the Coronavirus pandemic that many families are effectively in limbo whilst the courts try to catch up. One of my clients separated after 10 years of marriage and started proceedings in February 2019, but due to the current restrictions, they are still awaiting a final hearing on financial proceedings almost 18 months later.”
With restrictions continuing, it is possible that many more families are likely to be affected by the crisis. In fact, Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), the service that runs the courts, has stated that it is possible that new applications for financial relief on divorce will not be issued at the present time, or will only be issued and listed for a hearing after a significant delay. Ms Chesworth continued:
It’s not all about money. Many children are suffering from not being able to see a parent during a separation as there simply isn’t the capacity to make a ruling at present. We act for a father trying to gain more access to his one year old child. Proceedings were issued in December 2019 and the first hearing took place in early March 2020, but unfortunately, without the matter able to be heard as a contested hearing, the court could not force the mother to make the child available for more contact.
“With many uncertainties still facing the UK, it is more important than ever that families know where they stand and that any issues that remain outstanding get resolved as soon as possible.”
SAS Daniels LLP is a full-service law firm with offices in Chester, Congleton, Macclesfield and Stockport.