27th August 2020

Divorce and Lockdown: The Real Story

Analysing the impact the COVID-19 lockdown had on divorce rates and families across the UK

Two Wedding Rings on a Table

As we are easing out of lockdown, I suspect that we are all wondering how this COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to affect us, both in terms of our family lives and in the wider community.

For some, the initial period of lockdown, bringing such an overwhelming change in our lives as we knew it, was frightening. Others perhaps embraced the simpler way of life.

Those still working had to learn how to work from home, those with children how to home school and for many, how to juggle both! Many have lost their jobs and others face uncertainty in terms of their future employment. All this causes huge levels of stress and anxiety.

How Has the Lockdown Impacted Relationships?

It is clear that lockdown has affected us all in many ways, possibly both good and bad.

It is too early to say with certainty whether the lockdown has led to more divorces or relationship breakdowns, but there can be no doubt that the additional financial and domestic burdens place sometimes intolerable pressure on an already rocky situation.

Couples who are not used to spending so much time under one roof are now thrown together and may find this a strain. Add to this home-schooling small children, coping with anxious teenagers, juggling work and domestic chores, without even a night off and it is easy to see how a struggling relationship might be pushed to, or even beyond, breaking point.

Of course, for some couples, the lockdown has provided time to reconnect, but each family is different and has different challenges to face and we in the Family Team at Buss Murton Law recognise that there can be no generalisations.

Couple Holding Hands Indoors

The Lockdown’s Impact on Divorce Rates

Apparently, divorce rates soared in China following the release from lockdown and the Guardian reports an Australian study which suggests that divorce rates rose by 42%!  The Telegraph spoke to one national law firm who reported that enquiries were up 40% and though the Buss Murton family team continued to advise and assist our clients, both old and new, remotely throughout lockdown, we have certainly seen a significant increase in enquiries now that people have more freedom to seek assistance.

However, it is too early to gauge whether the pandemic has caused relationships to fail which would otherwise have remained intact or whether it has simply hastened their end.

Lockdown and Domestic Abuse

What is clear is that sadly, many of those in abusive relationships have found living together 24/7 intolerable. Imagine coping with all the challenges posed by the lockdown but also living in fear of your partner and not being able to seek help or respite with family or friends.

Official advice as to whether a person could safely leave their household to find safety in another household was initially vague, but it became clear that cases of domestic homicide were increasing and so eventually the Police confirmed that not only could a victim of domestic abuse leave, but indeed they should do so.

The Courts have continued to deal with urgent cases and if you or someone you know is suffering abuse, please do not hesitate to contact any member of our Family Team for urgent assistance.

Of course, not all abuse is physical. An imbalance in a relationship, especially if one partner exerts control over the finances, can lead to feelings of powerlessness. The Buss Murton family team can help you find clarity, and support you every step of the way to financial independence and security.

Financial Impact and Fairness

We are committed to ensuring fairness when assisting our clients with arrangements following a relationship breakdown. Many people will be concerned about their immediate needs such as arrangements for children, housing, income, etc. and the impact which these uncertain times might have on these issues.

Although so far, the expected dip in the property market has not materialised and the stock market has stabilised to a degree, we always work alongside other experts such as financial advisers and pensions experts to ensure that our clients receive the best possible advice not only for short term, but also longer-term issues.

We always endeavour to deal with issues in an amicable, constructive and proportionate way and, where appropriate, we take a holistic approach as we have close contacts with local mediators, counsellors and therapists.

We have two Collaboratively trained family lawyers: Melanie den Brinker, Head of Family at our Tunbridge Wells office and Margaret Sculpher, Associate Solicitor in Cranbrook.

Businesswoman Holding Papers

The Court Service

We always work hard to try to resolve issues by agreement, but sometimes the intervention of the court is needed and, in these cases, we will do everything possible to conclude matters for you as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible.  Throughout the pandemic, the courts continue to operate effectively, albeit remotely, despite initial delays.

The courts have been moving towards a remote service in recent years and many clients feel comfortable dealing with their divorce petition themselves online and seeking legal advice alongside to help sort out their finances.

However, it is important to understand that the divorce process will only dissolve the marriage and any financial claims can only be resolved by a separate financial remedy order (known as a consent order where parties can agree arrangements).

Our Commitment to You

It will be some time before we know whether divorce rates rise significantly due to COVID-19 and lockdown. While we know that people cleaved together during major events such as World War 2, some found the austerities of the aftermath more difficult. It must be hoped that COVID-19 will not have such far-reaching consequences.

What we do know is that if you have reached the decision that your relationship is at the end of the road, then we are here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us today to fix a free, no-obligation, 30-minute initial meeting to get to know us, and to discuss your immediate concerns.

Margaret Evans

Margaret Evans
Associate Solicitor