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Coronavirus ‘very likely’ to cause spike in divorce rates


While the country is in lockdown, family solicitors across the land are quietly preparing for a spike in enquiries. As couples are forced into self-isolation, top solicitors are predicting this could lead to a spike in divorce rates.

The combination of reduced social contact, working from home, and homeschooling children could be enough to push couples over the edge. Family solicitors already see seasonal peaks in divorce rates, usually after the Christmas break and the summer holidays. A sustained period of long exposure is often cited as the final straw.

Quarantine divorces

It’s easy to see how already strained couples who are cooped up at home could see this as the last straw. We only have to look to countries that are ahead of us in terms of infection rates to see how this might play out.

The Chinese city of Xi’an recorded record numbers of divorce applications following the end of quarantine measures. This has been attributed to a backlog of applications due to offices being closed for a month, and to the pressure couples faced when placed in strict quarantine conditions.

How does this compare to the UK?

In the UK, around 42% of all marriages end in divorce. And while there was a slump in divorce rates in the previous year, this is down to delays in the courts. Marriage rates are also down, as young couples are choosing to delay marriage or cohabit without getting married.

With many solicitors offices still closed, it remains to be seen how many couples will emerge from the other end newly single. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is expected we’ll see a surge in quarantine pregnancies as couples look for other ways to fill the time.

First steps for strained couples

Deciding to get divorced is never going to be easy. With the current system, couples have to place the blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Coronavirus isn’t officially “grounds for divorce”, so you will instead need to determine the cause of the breakdown of your marriage between you.

If you’re in self-isolation with your partner and thinking about divorce, the first step is to find a divorce solicitor in your area. With the country on lockdown and all but essential trips cancelled, you might be wise to take your search online. Sites like Wiselaw can help you to find a solicitor in your area.

Can couples start the divorce proceedings while self-isolating?

If couples are determined to make a clean break and both parties are in agreement, they could potentially start divorce proceedings before the end of self-isolation. However, it’s worth noting that with so many solicitors working from home and the courts effectively closed, this could heavily delay the process.

They would also need to consider how they will continue to self-isolate. The government has attempted to discourage people from moving house during this turbulent time, so it could be more difficult to fully separate.

Divorce isn’t instant

Couples should also revise their expectations over how quickly they can expect to be legally separated. The divorce process takes around 4-6 months. This is to ensure both sides have had a chance to think about the implication of their actions.

This could save some couples a lot of heartache if they simply had a knee-jerk reaction to the intense pressures of living in isolation with their partner. Once restrictions are lifted and life begins to show some semblance of normalcy, they might find that their actions were rash. At any stage in the divorce process, provided you haven’t yet received your Decree Absolute, you can hit the brakes.


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