OLS Solicitors Blog

COVID-19 Creates Unprecedented Challenges for Family Law Cases

By Mark Keenan on April 14, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a significant impact on many aspects of our lives, including the legal system. In England and Wales, family law cases have been particularly affected by the pandemic. With courts forced to close their doors at the height of the outbreak, family law proceedings were brought to a standstill. Even as courts have begun to reopen, they face unprecedented challenges in conducting hearings and making decisions that affect the lives of families across the country.

COVID-19 Creates Unprecedented Challenges for Family Law Cases

The pandemic has created a number of challenges for family law cases in England and Wales. Perhaps the most significant is the backlog of cases that built up during the lockdown. According to the Law Society, family courts were dealing with a backlog of over 40,000 cases by the summer. This has put significant pressure on an already stretched system, with many cases facing significant delays.

Another challenge is the impact of the pandemic on legal aid. With the economic impact of COVID-19 hitting many families hard, more people are turning to legal aid to access justice. However, the Legal Aid Agency has been struggling to cope with the surge in demand. This has meant that many families have had to wait longer to access legal support, further exacerbating the delays in family law cases.

Virtual Hearings and Delays: How the Pandemic is Affecting Family Law Proceedings

To try to address the challenges posed by the pandemic, family courts in England and Wales have introduced virtual hearings. This has allowed cases to proceed without the need for parties to attend court in person. However, while virtual hearings have helped to keep cases moving, they have also created new challenges. For example, some parties may struggle to access the technology needed to participate in a virtual hearing, such as a reliable internet connection.

Virtual hearings have also led to delays in some cases. This is because some hearings are not suitable for virtual proceedings, such as those involving vulnerable parties or complex evidence. In these cases, parties may need to wait longer for an in-person hearing, leading to further delays.

The impact of COVID-19 on family law cases in England and Wales has been significant. While virtual hearings have helped to keep cases moving, delays continue to be a major issue. As we moveout of the pandemic, it is hoped that courts will be able to find new ways to address these challenges and ensure that families can access justice in a timely manner.

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    • Mark Keenan

      Mark is the founder and Chief Executive of OLS Group. He began his career as a Legal Executive in family law at several law firms before launching Divorce-Online in May 2000. Since then, the firm has grown into one of the largest divorce services in the UK, specialising in cases where there is agreement. Recognising the need to broaden the scope of services to help people who cannot reach agreement or where there are complicated issues that require legal representation, Mark led the acquisition of OLS Solicitors in 2017. He invested heavily in people, technology and culture, bringing the 21st century to the family law firm and creating a first-class service that clients love. As the head of the firm, Mark is responsible for its overall strategy. In his free time, Mark enjoys spending quality time with his family, taking his dog on walks, and playing golf whenever he gets the chance.

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