There has been a wide range of impacts as a result of Covid-19, but the pressure of lockdown on families has been particularly difficult. For some, the lockdown has been the chance to spend precious time together – time that they would not normally get with one another. For others, a reduction in income due to being furloughed or made redundant; the pressure of working from home whilst also trying to home school, or being unable to get out for any longer than an hour of fresh air has been too much to cope with.
Co-existing in such challenging circumstances can prompt couples who had previously been considering separation or divorce to accelerate the process. Aspects that may have been small issues under normal situations have been magnified and multiplied by being in close quarters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over three months. Separation and potentially subsequent divorce is already a hard decision, and many couples try mediation before starting the official process, but even this has been increasingly difficult during Coronavirus. The worries about finances, childcare, the threat of unemployment, and family illnesses create additional strain and couples find themselves unable to communicate effectively. The extreme situation that lockdown has created should be acknowledged and considered as part of the decision making process before making rash decisions.
There is also a wider impact where children are involved. With schools closing, families have had to juggle homeschooling or care for younger children sometimes with limited or no support. This has caused even more stress on relationships, especially with parents who are already separated. Working out visits and staying safe whilst living apart have been particularly difficult during the pandemic increasing the pressure of lockdown on families.
Traditionally, January is a busy time for divorce solicitors, coming off the back of similar financial pressures and spending an increased amount of time together over Christmas. Lockdown has created a similar effect, but with added worries and stresses and over a longer period of time. Unsurprising then that some couples are at breaking point. Ultimately, lockdown may have a longer-term knock-on effect on families breaking down which is yet to be seen, however, it has already certainly shown an acceleration in couples starting separation or divorce proceedings.