HUMAN relationships can become crystalised in times of confinement, such as what is happening currently due to the COVID-19 crisis.
At the best of times, relationships can have their stumbling blocks, particularly parental relationships when raising children, domestic violence suffered in silence and long-standing marital/co-habiting problems which come to an inevitable head when faced with the current restrictions and social distancing guidelines.
As a practising Family Law solicitor (and Managing Partner at Wolfe & Co. Solicitors, Skibbereen) for over 35 years I have seen, at first hand, the trauma of relationship breakdowns, from separation to divorce, to child custody and division of properties and assets, and worked on domestic violence cases which wreak havoc on people’s lives.
As a mediator and collaborative practitioner, I strongly believe in the importance of placing the family in the centre of the family law process; supporting the needs of the children; the safely of parents and children; the essential importance of both parents being in the lives of their children and the need to support circumstances for all parties to thrive, as well as possible, post separation/divorce.
LIVING WITH CONFLICT
This current crisis brings a new level of unprecedented physical, psychological, and financial pressure for everybody and particularly for relationships which may already be strained.
For those families who are suffering unresolved conflict in these suffocating circumstances, life in lockdown must be very difficult indeed. For those families experiencing financial pressures, in violent and abusive relationships, and struggling to be the best they can be, this must also be their worst nightmare.
ASK FOR HELP
It is important to know that immediate assistance continues to be available for those suffering violence and abuse in particular. The advice is contact the local Gardai and your family law solicitor without delay.
Detailed phone consultations are immediately available with your solicitor, and good advice and practical steps forward can be accessed before the situation escalates further.
The District Courts are still operating and an application for a barring order / safely order can be quickly made and obtained. Furthermore, refuge can be secured to safeguard families and take them out of the danger zone.
For example, the District Court has confirmed that all court orders in relation to child access must be obeyed during this emergency, and the 2km restriction does not apply to child visitation or for the purpose of seeking refuge.
A number of services currently provided by legal firms are deemed to be essential services - the obvious examples include assistance with the making of wills and family law crisis work. Most solicitors are available for consultation over the phone in relation to urgent court work and other essential services and free legal aid entitlements, if any. Most are working from home and manning skeleton staff in their offices in full accord with the Covid 19 restrictions.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Urgent court matters are operating in compliance with the restrictions and it is expected that courts will continue much like this until a vaccine is available. There is an understandable effort to ensure that access to justice is not restricted (particularly in criminal cases) and the Courts Service (in charge of all the Courts in Ireland) and the Judiciary are currently trialling virtual courtrooms and court hearings, recognising that it is vital that the justice system and good legal services remain accessible to the public at all times.
THE ‘NEW NORMAL’ FOR BUSINESS
SMEs are the backbone of the Irish economy and very many of the key figures in Irish SMEs are over 40 years old and more likely to be over 50 yrs. This is going to prove a big challenge for the restoration of normal business in these SMEs until a vaccination is available. In my view, it is likely that the restrictions on the over 40s/50s/60s and 70s will not be lifted for some time. It is up to us ‘older’ businesspeople, working with Ireland’s smart and forward-thinking youth, to find creative, innovative and tech savvy ways to engage in the successful restoration of these businesses.
Social distancing has refocused our minds on the huge importance of connecting to and support for our families, our staff and our community and this thinking augurs well for our future in society and the ‘new normal’. If we work together for the common good, we will overcome.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Collins Sis the Managing Partner at Wolfe & Co Solicitors, Skibbereen, Co. Cork. Contact: Helen.Collins@wolfe.ie; Tel: 028 21177; www.wolfe.ie;
She is the author of A Short Guide to Divorce Law in Ireland - A survival handbook for the family, published by Cork University Press.
Online counselling services are available through; Accord 01 5313331; Healthy Minds 1850718888.
If you are suffering violence and abuse contact: Women’s Aid -1800 341 900. info@ womensaid.ie; West Cork Women Against Violence - 027 53847 (10am to 1pm); firstname.lastname@example.org OSS Cork 1800 497 497 (9am to 1pm). email@example.com Cork Domestic Violence Project; 021 427 5678.