Has Lockdown Had an Impact on Divorce Enquiries?

The first few months of 2021 have been spent in lockdown, causing couples and families to spend increased amounts of time together. This has, in many cases, acted as a catalyst for break-ups that may already have been on the cards, especially if previous separate routines had served to mask problems.

Lawyers often talk about ‘divorce day’ in January, but this year has been different due to the pressures and stresses of Covid-19. While troubled couples may have tried to stand together to offer support with home-schooling at the start of the year, the reality is that proximity exacerbates tensions and with children now back at school, lots of couples are seeing it as an appropriate time to start the divorce process.

At present, the only grounds for divorce are:

  • The marriage has broken down irretrievably through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or the rarely-used ground of desertion.
  • Two years of separation where both parties agree to divorce.
  • Five years of separation in which case the consent of the other party is not required.

Couples seeking a no-fault divorce will have to wait until Autumn 2021 even though proposed legislation removing fault from the divorce process has reached the finishing line of its parliamentary journey. Under the new legislation, it will be possible for couples to make joint divorce applications, alongside the current option for one party to initiate the process.

In the meantime, we need to support couples in navigating the process and help them avoid a recriminatory approach, which is even more important when children are involved. So, what can you do to achieve a “Good Divorce”?

  • Communication – sitting down and speaking with your spouse, if safe to do so, or with the help of a mediator or counsellor.
  • Support – speaking to family or friends or indeed a counsellor about how you feel.
  • Choose a process that supports your goals – if you engage in an adversarial Court process then you can expect more conflict in the future.
  • Advice – meet with a solicitor who is a member of Resolution. A solicitor will be able to advise on your options, assist in the negotiation of your settlement and draft documents to record your agreement.  An independent financial adviser will also be able to look at your options for perhaps raising a mortgage, investing a lump sum maybe to produce replacement income for the future and on pension sharing, so often now a feature of many divorce settlements.

Divorce is hard to contemplate and go through at the best of times, and in a world subject to the effects of Covid-19 this is particularly true. However, it is important to remember that divorce serves a crucially important function in allowing people to move on from unhappy and unhealthy relationships.  And while the journey may be stressful, the outcome should offer a new beginning and increased happiness.

If you would like to discuss any points in this article further, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077 for all your legal needs.