Divorce lawyers reveal inquiries up by 42% during coronavirus lockdown

Divorce lawyers reveal inquiries from clashing couples have risen by 42% during coronavirus lockdown

  • Number of divorce inquiries jumped by 42 per cent over two-month period
  • During lockdown more couples have decided to contact Co-op Legal Services
  • Some weeks saw a 75 per cent jump on number of calls the same time last year 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Divorce inquiries have leapt by 42 per cent as feuding couples called it a day during the two months of coronavirus lockdown, lawyers revealed.

Some weeks of lockdown saw the number of calls jump by 75 per cent compared to the same time last year, according to Co-op Legal Services.

Between March 23 and mid-May hundreds more couples took the step to contact lawyers about the possibility of getting a divorce.

Co-op Legal Services said that while lockdown has been a treasured time for households to spend together, for some couples it has perhaps prompted those who were considering ending their marriage to get in touch.

Lockdown has meant couples are spending more time together than they would if they had to go to work. Pictured: A couple on a London tube in March

Lawyers tend to see a spike in divorce inquiries in January, following rows over Christmas. 

It said Friday is the most common day for people to inquire about divorce, followed by Tuesday. The least common day is Sunday.

Tracey Moloney, head of family law at Co-op Legal Services, said: ‘We know that divorce can be a difficult decision at any time, and often couples have already considered divorcing for a number of months and tried mediation before they begin the process. 

Tracey Moloney’s tips for managing divorce 

1. Be prepared. Divorce can lead to loneliness, a location change and a fall in confidence. Finding community groups or new hobbies may help.

2. Consider other potential resolutions. It may be that extreme circumstances during the lockdown have pushed you to make a decision you would normally take longer to think about.

3. Consider the logistics of living apart while staying safe during this time.

4. Try to work out financial matters between you, for an outcome that will suit you both in the long run, which will help save time and money. But be aware that what you think is fair may not be the same in the eyes of the law.

5. When children are involved, divorce can become more complicated. If the other parent is acting in a way that is preventing you from seeing your child, consider your legal options.

‘Currently, concerns about finances, employment, coupled with the fact that households are having to spend an increased amount of time together can add strain on relationships.

‘However, divorce is life changing for all involved and so it’s really important that couples don’t go into divorce lightly and as a result of the current situation we find ourselves in.’

It comes as divorce lawyers and relationship counsellors across the country have reported a huge surge in inquiries during coronavirus lockdown.

Many couples are at breaking point after being cooped up together for weeks, fighting over strained finances, sharing childcare and, for some couples, alcohol use.

Many are seeking out professional help to fix their problems, with others calling it quits.

But lockdown has meant that finding time alone to seek divorce proceedings are even more difficult, with children out of school and adults working from home or furloughed. 

Head of legal firm Vardags Emma Gill told The Times: ‘Some people can only message in the evening when their partner has gone to bed, or get up early in the morning to do so.

She added: ‘That is where we have seen a real change in how people are communicating with us.’

The beginning of lockdown saw Google searches related to divorce drop by 30 per cent before swiftly picking up as the weeks went on.

Experts say couples already intending to split before lockdown could have paused their plans until the pandemic was over. 

But as isolation added more and more strain, lockdown acted as the straw that broke the camel’s back pushing relationships over the edge.

Head of therapy service Tavistock Relationships Liz Hamlin said: ‘If you are locked down you begin to have the time to start reflecting intensely on your relationship and thinking: “I’m not quite so sure about this going on in the future and if life isn’t going at full tilt this is an opportunity to make a change once restrictions lift”.’

In March, high-profile celebrity divorce lawyer Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia warned coronavirus is ‘very likely’ to lead to an increase in marriage break-ups as couples are confined together for long periods in self-isolation.

Baroness Shackleton, nicknamed the ‘Steel Magnolia’ for her skills and charm, has represented clients including Formula 1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, the Prince of Wales, Madonna and Liam Gallagher.

Most recently, Baroness Shackleton represented Princess Haya in her acrimonious divorce proceedings with her estranged husband, Sheikh Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

Baroness Shackleton also represented Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce to Heather Mills – who famously threw a jug of water over the lawyer in court after she was granted some £24million in the break-up.

She told Peers at Westminster: ‘Our peak times are after long exposure during the summer holidays and over Christmas.

Many couples are at breaking point after being cooped up together for weeks, fighting over strained finances, sharing childcare and, for some couples, alcohol use (stock image)

‘One only has to imagine what it’s going to be like when families are sealed in a property for a long period of time.’ 

She added: ‘The prediction amongst divorce lawyers is that following self-imposed confinement it is very likely that the divorce rate will rise.’

However, Lady Shackleton raised concerns over the lack of provision relating to divorce.

She said: ‘When we leave the EU there will be an enormous vacuum and there has been no direction to the judges or the people who practice in this area as to what is going to happen.’

HOW TO CORONAVIRUS-PROOF YOUR MARRIAGE 

Sara Davison, aka The Divorce Coach

Sara Davison, aka The Divorce Coach, shares her tips on how to avoid divorce and relationship breakdown amid the Covid-19 crisis: 

BE KIND: This may sound basic but it’s a fundamental foundation and one to keep reminding yourself of when tensions mount. Make an agreement now to keep being kind to one another – whether you’re a couple or a family – and create a safe space for each other to express any concerns without blame or repercussions so you can work together to tackle and dissolve any issues, tensions or concerns. A safe space might just mean agreeing not to get angry or frustrated with each other while you have these discussions.

DON’T LET IT FESTER: Being in close confinement together means the tiniest of resentments can quickly become magnified. Try to keep open communication and a constructive dialogue. If you feel resentment building over something, however small, tackle it head on and work with your partner to try and address it and resolve it.

CREATE OWN SANCTUARY: We all need our own personal space and calving this out has never been more challenging. Whether you’re a couple or a family of five, find some time to think about and discuss your needs with your partner and how you can support each other to prioritise each other’s needs. It might be a candlelit bath, holing yourself up with a boxset or even waking early at 5am and downloading a meditation – taking some time out for personal space and self-care is essential and healthy.

WORK OUT A PLAN FOR FINANCES: Money is one of the biggest causes of arguments and with so much economic uncertainty, these pressures can lead to chronic stress. Talk honestly and openly about your finances and map out a worst-case scenario so you both know what the difficulties and expectations are. Help is available if you’re struggling so make sure you research and equip yourself with knowledge now. If you are both on the same page you can work together to find a way through this.

RESPECT EACH OTHER’S WORKLOADS: For many people working from home is an entirely new concept. Unless you’re used to it, it can be really difficult to find discipline or space to concentrate when you’re not in an office environment. If kids are soon taken out of schools, trying to calve out time to work with children interrupting or being noisy can make this impossible. It’s a good idea to work out a routine with your partner enabling both of you to get the essential work done. Perhaps one of you works better in the morning vs the afternoon? Or perhaps this is better shared in terms of priorities – either way be fair and share childcare respecting and prioritising each other’s needs.

EMBRACE IT: Universally, we are together in an unprecedented crisis. As frustrating as this can be, embracing it and trying to make the best of it, brings out the best in humanity. Try to remember what it was like when you were growing up before mobile phones and Netflix. Get the board games out and get stuck into a game of Monopoly or Pictionary. It’s also a good time to clear out the home or tackle a wardrobe detox – both excellent for a mental refresh and kind to the planet. It’s a good time to nurture too, cooking and eating delicious and healthy food will keep you and your family’s minds and bodies strong and healthy.

KEEP THE FLAME ALIVE: Remember that everyone is having a tough time and love and romance is never more important during times like this. Again – keep kindness in mind and find small ways to show your affection and love for each other. It might be breakfast in bed, or a romantic dinner when the kids are in bed – but create a romantic space to spend quality time together and enjoy each other away from daily chores or worries.

KEEP IN TOUCH WITH LOVED ONES: One of the biggest concerns for many is their parents or elderly relatives – especially whilst we’re unable to see them in person. Make sure you keep in touch regularly with video calls which will really help reduce anxiety for them and for you and keep your support team connected.

KEEP MOVING: Not only is exercise a great way to release stress and get the endorphins pumping so we feel good, it also improves our ability to sleep which reduces stress. With lockdown restrictions this is more challenging but by no means impossible – drive to a secluded area for a walk, get out in the garden or download an fitness routine on YouTube which can also be a giggle!

For more information about Sara and her work, visit www.saradavison.com

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