The Taylor&Emmet Blog

Will the Coronavirus global pandemic result in a spike in divorce rates?

The most recent Government and NHS guidance advises that entire households must self-isolate for at least 14 days if one member of a family shows symptoms consistent with Coronavirus, such as a persistent dry cough or fever, to avoid further spread.

As of Friday 20 March 2020, pubs, bars, restaurants and schools have been forced to close and families are being forced to spend a lot more time together in close confines. The public have been advised not to go to work or public gatherings, nor should they use public transport or have visitors to their home. People have been encouraged to clean their bathroom each time it is used, use a dishwasher if they have one and clean objects and surfaces frequently. Other than seeing people from 2 metres away whilst shopping for groceries or taking the dog for a walk, the public have been advised to practise social distancing.

You may be wondering what effect all of this may have on married life going forward.

For some couples, they may be relishing the opportunity to spend more quality time together over the coming weeks and months and to learn more about each other.

For others, quarantine and forced cohabitation within the confines of four walls for weeks on end risks pre-existing tensions and conflict coming to the surface. Social isolation, for some, could unfortunately result in marital strife and trouble at home. People are much more worried about job security and financial instability and this may lead to distancing and disconnection both physically and emotionally, and poor communication with their significant other.

According to Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, a leading divorce lawyer who has acted for the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Prince Charles, Liam Gallagher and Madonna, the Coronavirus outbreak is “very likely” to lead to an increase in divorce rates. She made the comments in the House of Lords during the second reading of the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill very recently.

Unfortunately, Baroness Shackleton may well be predicting the future for some relationships.

For some couples whom underlying conflicts have been bubbling for some time, self-isolation may be the final nail in the coffin and divorces may be pursued impulsively.

According to a report in the Global Times, this has already occurred in the Chinese city of Xi’an. Ten million people were forced to go into lockdown as a result of the pandemic and since restrictions have eased earlier this month, an unprecedented number of divorce enquiries have been made. Commentators suggest two reasons for this. The divorce rate may have spiked because law firms have been closed for over a month, or it could attributable to couples being forced to quarantine in close quarters for a significant period of time.

There is stress and confusion about the current health crisis, characterised by fear of infection, angst that food and medicines may be in short supply and a risk of financial loss. People are ensuring frequent hand washing and ramping up their cleaning routines. Couples may begin to question their partners about whether they are doing enough to combat the virus or argue that they are not taking precautions seriously enough.

However, it is widely known that hardship can in fact bring people together and force them to think about their likes, dislikes, dreams and fears. There’s no denying that relationships can be complex, and these are testing times for everyone.

Our family law team at Taylor&Emmet are experienced at dealing with separation and divorce. If you want to discuss your options, please call a member of our friendly and experienced team on 0114 218 4000 or click here to arrange an appointment.

Martha O'Toole

Martha secured her Training Contract in the penultimate year of her undergraduate degree and joined Taylor&Emmet LLP as a Trainee Solicitor in September 2019.

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