Suggestions that there will be a surge in domestic violence in the region as families self-isolate and schools face long closures has prompted a response from The Family Law Company.
Director Jane Chanot who is part of the Children, Child Abduction and Domestic Violence Team, says “I have real concerns that we’ll see an increase in situations where families are kept inside together for long periods of time, with likely financial worries as well.
“I believe we have a moral responsibility to provide services for vulnerable people at this time and I want people to know that we are available to talk – and we are accessible to everyone.”
Jane explained that the service has been set up to allow lawyers to talk to people via phone or video link so they don’t have to come into the office.
“It’s important to talk to us sooner rather than later. We can ascertain really quickly whether someone is eligible for Legal Aid and what help we can immediately offer.
“We’re also able to point them to a domestic violence support service such as Splitz or SAFE, or Support Through Court.”
There are various challenges to overcome in family law due to Coronavirus, such as how to serve injunctions and orders to a perpetrator. “Usually this would have to be done person to person - but these rules will have to be relaxed. The perpetrator needs to know they are subject to an injunction.”
Injunctions could be a Non Molestation Order which protects a person and their child/ren from being harmed or threatened by an abuser, or an Occupation Order which decides who can live in the family home or enter the surrounding area – meaning someone can be removed from the home. The person named in the injunction can be arrested if they break it.
The current situation is already having an impact on how criminal courts operate. The family courts and family practitioners have recently received new guidance which recommends where possible court hearings are done remotely such by phone or video link. We have the facilities to arrange this so people can be assured that they will get the protection they, and any children, need.
Jane says that whatever happens and however the justice system learns to cope with the effects of Coronavirus, The Family Law Company is available to anyone who needs to talk about their situation.
The numbers to ring if you need help: Exeter 01392 421777, Plymouth 01752 674999 or Taunton 01823 785070. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org