These are unprecedented times and we are all learning new rules to deal with day to day life and how to live with each other.  Family life goes on and the family team at Sydney Mitchell has worked throughout the pandemic.  We have faced new ways of working at home and in the office, including video meetings with clients, telephone, video hearings and collaborative meetings by zoom. 

Restrictions mean that inevitably we are all spending more time together as a family. For some that may cement relationships and there may be an increase in marriages, civil partnerships and births.  For others, that may mean making decisions about relationships and an increase in divorce and separations.  Some couples forced to live together during lockdown have decided to stay together.

Recent headlines talk about an increase in divorce rates.  What does that achieve?  Inevitably the first story of the New Year involves the calendar marking “divorce day”.  How does that help families?  Divorce figures are often published a year behind and so we will not know until next year whether divorce rates have risen this year.  What we should focus on now is how to help families through separation and achieve child focused arrangements for children.

Positive steps to heal during lockdown

When couples decide to make a family, pre-nuptial agreements and co-habitation agreements can start the discussion about finances, property and children before marriage or starting to live together and make it easier if the relationship comes to an end.  Let us make those positive steps the headlines.

Many hearings have had to be cancelled and although the courts are working through the backlog, there are still long delays. Rather than rely on CAFCASS to find out what children want, Sydney Mitchell has made referrals to mediators trained to speak to children. Those meetings have taken place by video call. Once the child’s voice is heard, parents often re-think their own position and we have been able to reach an agreement that really reflects what children want.

The collaborative process enables negotiations to take place “around the table” albeit by video conference to reach agreements rather than in a court room. There is an increasing use of arbitration or private negotiation hearings (often referred to as FDRs).

For help or advice on family law and collaborative matters, please speak to Mauro Vinti on 0808 166 8827 or email


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