07 May 2020
The new normal: Post lockdown divorce
There is a widely held view that there will be a rise in divorces as lockdown eases, particularly since this is what happened in Wuhan and other Chinese cities, which were the first to be locked down after the Covid-19 pandemic started. Fran Hipperson, family partner, advises on how couples can have a smoother divorce.
It is well documented that there are peaks in divorce enquiries after families have spent longer periods of time together, such as after the summer and Christmas holidays. This period of lockdown is also preventing people from pursuing their normal lives, for example, they can’t engage in their hobbies in the usual way, have time alone or fully socialise. People are also coping with the uncertainty and worry of Covid-19, their finances, jobs and health. In addition, they are juggling household chores, working from home and looking after the children – sometimes with one partner doing a lot more than the other. All of this is leading to increased levels of stress and in all likelihood, reduced levels of tolerance.
Lockdown began on the 23 March and before this, couples were simply not used to spending all their time together. Even for happily married couples this intensity can cause difficulties. For couples who were already struggling or who had grown apart and were living more independent lives, this period is presenting an unprecedented challenge.
How to have a smooth divorce?
It is important when dealing with any separation that both parties try to understand each other’s perspective and remember that whilst one partner may have reached a decision that the relationship is over, their spouse may not. The initial days and weeks of a separation can be extremely distressing especially if it came as a shock. Remembering that your partner may not have reached the same stage as you and may need time to process the separation, so that they can move forward constructively, will ultimately help resolve matters more amicably.
It is important to keep communicating with each other. Where a couple have children, they are likely to have to talk about the arrangements for the children for years to come and keeping discussions polite and constructive will make that easier.
It is important that where arrangements need to be agreed with regards to children, that parents avoid using the Covid-19 situation to limit the time children spend with their other parent. Although courts appreciate many parents will have legitimate concerns in this regard, there will be consequences for parents who have perhaps exploited the pandemic in this way.
Seek legal advice. Understanding what a workable and fair outcome with regard to finances would be, and arrangements for any children, is vital and will enable a couple to have an open discussion and hopefully reach a resolution.
If you’re thinking about divorce since you’ve been in lockdown, taking advice early on will mean that you are aware of the court processes and the different stages involved and will give you guidance and advice about the appropriate outcome and the steps that need to be taken. This removes some of the uncertainty and provides parameters for settlement discussions. Some people prefer not to use a solicitor for the entire process, however it is vital that any agreement reached is recorded in a consent order, which is approved by the court as this provides certainty and finality.