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19 May 2020

From complete shut-down to great agility: how family courts across the world have responded to Covid-19

In a series of reports from New York to Melbourne, senior lawyers assess the effectiveness of family law during lockdown

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Covid-19 is adding extra strain to families experiencing a break up as well as imposing legal and other obstacles

Family break-ups can be traumatic at any time. Lockdown is making stressful situations worse and imposing new legal and logistical challenges, such as how to maintain shared custody arrangements.

The Covid-19 pandemic has added a new level of complexity for family lawyers seeking to resolve urgent legal problems for their clients at a time when hasty measures to curb the spread of the virus have imposed unprecedented constraints on the normal functioning of society.

This Family Law Under Lockdown series of articles, which was commissioned by Mills & Reeve consultant and family law specialist Suzanne Kingston, explores how different jurisdictions are responding to the crisis. 

In South Africa, the Chief Justice wasn’t consulted before the National State of Disaster was declared, in France the courts have virtually shut down completely, and in Hong Kong, a limited number of remote hearings have relied on outdated technology.

But there have also been encouraging developments.

In New York, Gretchen Beall Schumann of Cohen Rabin Stine Schumann believes the courts have made ‘enormous strides’ in shifting to remote hearings.

‘Personally, with the huge technological change I feel the world of work will never be the same again,’ argues Kingston.

Click on the links to read reports from New York, London, Paris, Cape Town, Hong Kong and Melbourne

New York

The court system has made enormous strides in shifting to remote-based hearings — Family lawyer Gretchen Beall Schumann is impressed with how New York's courts have adapted to the Covid-19 lockdown

London

The unique challenges facing family law during lockdown — Suzanne Kingston provides answers to a series of pressing legal questions faced by families during the Covid-19 pandemic

Paris

Uncertainties and searching for a new normal to resolve family crises — Family court proceedings in France have virtually ground to a halt reports Frances Goldsmith

With the family courts closed, mediation may be the only option — Delphine Eskenazi explains how the Paris Bar is deploying mediators to resolve parental access disputes during Covid-19

Cape Town

As economic devastation escalates, it remains a balancing of rights — Zenobia Du Toit reports on how family courts are adapting to South Africa's National State of Disaster

Hong Kong

Remote court hearings in Hong Kong: an opportunity missed — Corinne Remedios is disappointed by the failure of the courts to deploy modern technology during the Covid-19 lockdown

Melbourne

Progressing family law disputes through Covid-19 in Australia — Amanda Humphreys reports on how Australia's family courts and lawyers are coping with lockdown

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