|Sam Bushell Director of Brown Turner Ross|
Every year, during the weeks following Christmas, lawyers like myself always see a surge in divorce enquiries, so much so that mid-January has a day labelled as “D Day”. It is apparent that long periods spent locked up at home together during the festive period is the final straw for many couples, who seek a divorce lawyer once the final strips of tinsel are packed away. After 12 weeks of lockdown, the family law team here at Brown Turner Ross is braced for another surge in divorce enquiries, potentially on a larger scale than what we experience post-Christmas.
It comes after it emerged from lockdown, China saw a spike in the number of divorce applications, so much so that officials in the Fujian Province of southern China, had to limit the number of divorce appointments to just 10 couples per day after being overwhelmed with the number of couples seeking a separation.
The UN has also recently described the global increase in domestic violence as a “shadow pandemic” alongside the Coronavirus pandemic. The UN believes that cases of domestic abuse have increased by 20% globally during lockdown, where many victims are spending months with no escape from their abusers.
So why does this happen? While being physically marooned 24/7 with your spouse for a long period of time can be a positive experience for some couples, it can lead to amplified frustrations, arguments and conflicts for others, which under normal circumstances rarely surface thanks to personal hobbies and work to keep us independent as individuals - one of the bedrocks of a successful relationship. Of course normal conditions also distracts some couples from having to face the inevitable truth that the relationship had stopped working a long time ago.
The last 12 weeks have been anything but normal. Like no other time, the Covid-19 pandemic presents couples with a unique set of challenges that unfortunately some will not be able to overcome. Concerns about health, finances and employment security are a leading factor when couples start considering a separation.
So how can couples keep calm during this strange and unprecedented time, and maintain a happy household?
Clear communication is vital, so it’s important to talk about what’s on your mind with your spouse. It’s also really important to enjoy activities separately, whether that’s going for your daily exercise alone or enjoying a TV programme without being disturbed.
Couples’ counselling may also be a good idea - many providers are offering online sessions now to tackle relationship problems. Relate, for example, are an organisation providing relationship help and advice, and are operating a range of online or over the phone counselling options here.
If you do find yourself still needing advice on separations and divorce, there’s a number of important things that any good divorce lawyer will guide you with as you go into this process.
Firstly, take advice from a professional, they will guide you without emotion, through what is a life changing decision that will affect the whole family. When getting divorced the practical side of things can be a trigger for frustrations to spill over. In my experience the two most divisive issues are children and the dividing up of assets. You must think of what is best for your children and your future, no matter what kind of partner they may be, they are still dad. Also be mindful not to disregard your pensions. There are many options including pension sharing orders, or offset agreements to consider.
If lockdown has left you considering speaking to a family law expert, know that you’re not alone, and that you will reach a solution with the help of a good divorce lawyer who will fight to protect you and your future.
And if you and/or your children are suffering at the hands of domestic abuse, seek help immediately. There are some useful links below.
● Women’s Aid online anonymous chat service https://chat.womensaid.org.uk/
● The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247
● Government advice on how to get help if you are, or know someone who is, a victim of domestic abuse https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-abuse-how-to-get-help
Sam Bushell is MD and head of family law at BrownTurner Ross with offices in Liverpool and Southport.
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