A nationwide lockdown has never occurred before. We are still dealing with the many consequences of the enforced isolation, or the effects of close proximity to the same people or person, day in day out. Suicides have increased; people are reporting more bouts of depression; the elderly are lonely. Yet the defining domestic event for many couples during the lockdown was the breakdown of their marriage as the strain of being together 24/7 triggered the fault lines inside their relationship. It was inevitable that we would see an increase in the number of divorce enquiries across the country as the lockdown stretched into months.
Co-op Legal Services has reported a 42% increase in divorce enquiries between 23 March 2020 and the middle of May, when compared with the same period in 2019. Citizens Advice reported a 25% jump in traffic to its online divorce page during September compared with September 2019, stating that the page was one of the top two most-viewed pages on its website in September. Unsurprisingly, marital disharmony is not just occurring in the UK. The US has seen a 34% increase in divorce agreements when compared with 2019.
The stresses of lockdown include: the worries of a loss of income; general financial concerns, and spending an increased amount of time with spouses. Perhaps because of these factors, there have been reports of an increase in alcohol consumption amongst households, which can contribute to arguments which in turn can lead to an increase in domestic violence.
The website Divorce-online.co.uk reported that during the national lockdown, one in four of the divorce petitions they prepared on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour mentioned alcohol abuse as a reason for the breakdown of the marriage. This is compared to one in six petitions mentioning alcohol abuse during the same period in 2019.
In abusive situations it is very important to make sure couples seek advice from the outset to minimise unnecessary animosity between the parties.
Couples facing stressful, abusive situations need to expedite a formal separation and issue divorce proceedings promptly, before the situation worsens.
There are only two reasons within a divorce petition that allow a couple to divorce immediately; unreasonable behaviour and adultery. In other cases, parties who consent to a divorce but cannot or will not rely upon either of these grounds will have to wait two years from the date of their separation.
At Griffin Law, we are experienced in all manner of disputes. We will work with you cost-effectively to assess the best options for you, whether that be introducing you to mediation or another form of dispute resolution to attempt to resolve issues, or to discuss your options in issuing divorce proceedings.