Divorce lawyers and counsellors report surge in enquiries

Falling out of love in lockdown: Divorce lawyers and counsellors report surge in enquiries from warring couples during coronavirus crisis

  • Many couples are at breaking point after being cooped up together for weeks 
  • Couples fighting over finances, sharing childcare and, for some, alcohol use
  • Finding time alone to seek divorce proceedings are more difficult in lockdown
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Divorce lawyers and relationship counsellors have reported a huge surge in enquiries during coronavirus lockdown.

Many couples are at breaking point after being cooped up together for weeks, fighting over strained finances, sharing childcare and, for some couples, alcohol use.

It has prompted many to seek out professional help to fix their problems, with others calling it quits.

But lockdown has meant that finding time alone to seek divorce proceedings are even more difficult, with children out of school and adults working from home or furloughed.

Divorce lawyers and relationship counsellors have reported a huge surge in enquiries during coronavirus lockdown (stock image)

Head of legal firm Vardags Emma Gill told The Times: ‘Some people can only message in the evening when their partner has gone to bed, or get up early in the morning to do so.

She added: ‘That is where we have seen a real change in how people are communicating with us.’

The beginning of lockdown saw Google searches related to divorce drop by 30 per cent before swiftly picking up as the weeks went on.

Experts say couples already intending to split before lockdown could have paused their plans until the pandemic was over. 

But as isolation added more and more strain, lockdown acted as the straw that broke the camel’s back pushing relationships over the edge.

Head of therapy service Tavistock Relationships Liz Hamlin said: ‘If you are locked down you begin to have the time to start reflecting intensely on your relationship and thinking: “I’m not quite so sure about this going on in the future and if life isn’t going at full tilt this is an opportunity to make a change once restrictions lift”.’

Lockdown has meant couples are spending more time together than they would if they had to go to work. Pictured: A couple on a London tube in March

In March, high-profile celebrity divorce lawyer Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia warned coronavirus is ‘very likely’ to lead to an increase in marriage break-ups as couples are confined together for long periods in self-isolation.

Baroness Shackleton, nicknamed the ‘Steel Magnolia’ for her skills and charm, has represented clients including Formula 1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, the Prince of Wales, Madonna and Liam Gallagher.

Most recently, Baroness Shackleton represented Princess Haya in her acrimonious divorce proceedings with her estranged husband, Sheikh Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

Baroness Shackleton also represented Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce to Heather Mills – who famously threw a jug of water over the lawyer in court after she was granted some £24million in the break-up.

She told Peers at Westminster: ‘Our peak times are after long exposure during the summer holidays and over Christmas.

Many couples are at breaking point after being cooped up together for weeks, fighting over strained finances, sharing childcare and, for some couples, alcohol use (stock image)

‘One only has to imagine what it’s going to be like when families are sealed in a property for a long period of time.’ 

She added: ‘The prediction amongst divorce lawyers is that following self-imposed confinement it is very likely that the divorce rate will rise.’

However, Lady Shackleton raised concerns over the lack of provision relating to divorce.

She said: ‘When we leave the EU there will be an enormous vacuum and there has been no direction to the judges or the people who practice in this area as to what is going to happen.’

HOW TO CORONAVIRUS-PROOF YOUR MARRIAGE 

Sara Davison, aka The Divorce Coach

Sara Davison, aka The Divorce Coach, shares her tips on how to avoid divorce and relationship breakdown amid the Covid-19 crisis: 

BE KIND: This may sound basic but it’s a fundamental foundation and one to keep reminding yourself of when tensions mount. Make an agreement now to keep being kind to one another – whether you’re a couple or a family – and create a safe space for each other to express any concerns without blame or repercussions so you can work together to tackle and dissolve any issues, tensions or concerns. A safe space might just mean agreeing not to get angry or frustrated with each other while you have these discussions.

DON’T LET IT FESTER: Being in close confinement together means the tiniest of resentments can quickly become magnified. Try to keep open communication and a constructive dialogue. If you feel resentment building over something, however small, tackle it head on and work with your partner to try and address it and resolve it.

CREATE OWN SANCTUARY: We all need our own personal space and calving this out has never been more challenging. Whether you’re a couple or a family of five, find some time to think about and discuss your needs with your partner and how you can support each other to prioritise each other’s needs. It might be a candlelit bath, holing yourself up with a boxset or even waking early at 5am and downloading a meditation – taking some time out for personal space and self-care is essential and healthy.

WORK OUT A PLAN FOR FINANCES: Money is one of the biggest causes of arguments and with so much economic uncertainty, these pressures can lead to chronic stress. Talk honestly and openly about your finances and map out a worst-case scenario so you both know what the difficulties and expectations are. Help is available if you’re struggling so make sure you research and equip yourself with knowledge now. If you are both on the same page you can work together to find a way through this.

RESPECT EACH OTHER’S WORKLOADS: For many people working from home is an entirely new concept. Unless you’re used to it, it can be really difficult to find discipline or space to concentrate when you’re not in an office environment. If kids are soon taken out of schools, trying to calve out time to work with children interrupting or being noisy can make this impossible. It’s a good idea to work out a routine with your partner enabling both of you to get the essential work done. Perhaps one of you works better in the morning vs the afternoon? Or perhaps this is better shared in terms of priorities – either way be fair and share childcare respecting and prioritising each other’s needs.

EMBRACE IT: Universally, we are together in an unprecedented crisis. As frustrating as this can be, embracing it and trying to make the best of it, brings out the best in humanity. Try to remember what it was like when you were growing up before mobile phones and Netflix. Get the board games out and get stuck into a game of Monopoly or Pictionary. It’s also a good time to clear out the home or tackle a wardrobe detox – both excellent for a mental refresh and kind to the planet. It’s a good time to nurture too, cooking and eating delicious and healthy food will keep you and your family’s minds and bodies strong and healthy.

KEEP THE FLAME ALIVE: Remember that everyone is having a tough time and love and romance is never more important during times like this. Again – keep kindness in mind and find small ways to show your affection and love for each other. It might be breakfast in bed, or a romantic dinner when the kids are in bed – but create a romantic space to spend quality time together and enjoy each other away from daily chores or worries.

KEEP IN TOUCH WITH LOVED ONES: One of the biggest concerns for many is their parents or elderly relatives – especially whilst we’re unable to see them in person. Make sure you keep in touch regularly with video calls which will really help reduce anxiety for them and for you and keep your support team connected.

KEEP MOVING: Not only is exercise a great way to release stress and get the endorphins pumping so we feel good, it also improves our ability to sleep which reduces stress. With lockdown restrictions this is more challenging but by no means impossible – drive to a secluded area for a walk, get out in the garden or download an fitness routine on YouTube which can also be a giggle!

For more information about Sara and her work, visit www.saradavison.com

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