I distinctly recall arriving at the Court of Session, fresh from the train and in a hurry, as a bright eyed and bushy tailed young solicitor (back when "in person" hearings were a regular part of my week). Suit ironed, hair immaculate, eager to impress. My client and Senior Counsel were both waiting for me (eager to impress doesn't always equate to punctual, apparently). 

It was rather embarrassing, then, when my otherwise sleek and professional image was obliterated by the security check. I looked on, mortified, as the security guard identified "suspicious objects" in my handbag and proceeded to pull out three plastic Pokemon, an unwashed sock belonging to a small child, two mascara wands and half a pancake.

There are several occasions I can recall since then where my work and home lives have uncomfortably collided. In the midst of the pandemic, it is of course commonplace to find play doh on your work desk, a cat curled up on your office chair, the postman making a delivery in the middle of a virtual court hearing… 

Whilst working from home, or hybrid working, have their advantages (more fresh air, short commute, can wear your slippers), at times the juggle of work and family life can be tricky enough without adding in the lack of physical separation between home and office.

In the world of family law, the implications of home working can be extensive.

 1.  The effect of working from home on child residence and contact 

The ability (or necessity) to work from home can have a knock-on effect on provisions for child residence and contact. Previously agreed arrangements, often centred around who might be available for school drop-off/pick-up, are thrown up in the air due to increased flexibility for one or both parents. Contact, which once helped a resident parent who needed to work in the office, may be less readily facilitated in circumstances where getting wee Danny to his karate lessons on time is no longer an issue.

2. The desire to travel when parents are separated

When a change of scene is needed, interest may be piqued by the thought of a relaxing holiday. However, thanks to Omicron and the frequently changing guidance on international travel, will the other parent consent to children attending such a trip?

3. The effect of working from home on relationships 

As work stress (a tight deadline, a missing document which you know is safely locked in your office cabinet) and home stress (who finished all the loo roll, why am I always emptying the dishwasher?) collide, tensions between married or cohabiting couples can reach breaking point. Separation has various legal implications and the worry of that can compound the difficulties.

4. The effect of working from home on domestic abuse

Troublingly, there has been a well-documented increase in domestic abuse since the advent of the pandemic. With social interaction limited and a dearth of face-to-face contact, individuals may also be less inclined to share problems and to seek help. Colleagues, who may once have been uniquely well placed to spot the signs of domestic abuse, are unable to do so as effectively via a screen.

In each of these scenarios, taking time to talk, and sometimes more importantly, to listen, to those around you (even remotely), sharing concerns and seeking advice from a Family Law solicitor at the earliest possible stage can assist. Advice is always tendered on a confidential basis and can sometimes be the tonic needed to allow individuals to take some control of their lives in what has been, for many, a very difficult couple of years. In the meantime, I am reasonably confident that the security guards at the Court of Session are relieved to be seeing a wee bit less of me.