In this unprecedented time of crisis, we are acutely aware that there will be families who are under strain and will need access to family law services even where they may be in self-isolation or separated from family members.
At the firm, we are doing our best to ensure our clients receive the support they need during the crisis. Even though we cannot meet face to face at present due to social distancing instructions, there is a great deal that we can do using technology, email, skype and the humble telephone.
In the first instance, if you have a family law query, please do use the portal on the website or call the switchboard and we will arrange a call back in the usual way.
We can arrange first meetings over skype or Zoom and the lawyers are on hand to answer any questions as per usual.
In terms of the steps that can be taken, we are still offering a full range of family law services. The court system is likely to be subject to significant delays and closure and now is a perfect time for other forums of dispute resolution to be brought to the fore. These include the following:
- Mediation – although the classic model of mediation is a face to face eprocess, it is possible to conduct mediation over skype and one of the partners, Peter Burgess, is FMC accredited. This means that he is also able to provide MIAMs over skype. However, our aim would be to try to persuade any parties who are interested to look at mediation as a way of resolving disputes and to try the skype method if at all possible. Mediation is one of the more affordable routes to resolving your dispute and it is also the most constructive and flexible means of doing so.
- Round table meetings – again, conventionally this would be done with clients in separate rooms and lawyers shuttling between them but there is no reason why a round table meeting could not also be conducted over skype. Alternatively, you could have a written exchange of proposals and then the lawyers could discuss matters over skype and feed back to the clients. This kind of collaborative approach is already common but may take on increasing prevalence in the coming months.
- Early neutral evaluations (money or children)/ private FDR – we are pleased to be able to offer clients who are already represented the opportunity to have an independent “steer” on any dispute they have – whether that is children or money related. We would be able to host the discussion over telephone or video conferencing for convenience or if restrictions on movement are in place. This may be a more cost-effective solution in cases where a discrete point is in dispute or the matter involves modest assets.
- Private FDRs and arbitration – these private court hearings are alternatives to the court route and are going to be increasingly popular with court business being closed to all but the most urgent cases. Either in financial matters or in children matters it is possible to appoint a private judge to help to decide a dispute either by giving a non-binding “steer” on a fair outcome or on the basis of making a binding decision.
There may of course be instances where clients need to turn to litigation and we will be on hand to guide any clients through that process should they need it. The court will be open for urgent business, such as abductions and injunctions and other hearings can be conducted via video conferencing facilities.
Finally, a word to all our clients and potential clients – we hope that you and your families stay healthy and that we see a return to some form of normality as soon as possible.
The Burgess Mee Team