Divorce Advice Up 25 Per Cent in the UK Following China Virus Lockdowns

circa 1955: A married couple contemplating divorce. (Photo by Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images)
Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images

Family law firms are predicting a “post-lockdown divorce boom”, as a report from a leading charity has claimed that the Chinese coronavirus and the ensuing lockdowns have caused “enormous strain” on relationships.

Citizens Advice has disclosed that after an initial dip during the early stages of the UK’s lockdown in April, searches for divorce guidance has risen by 25 per cent in the first week of September over the same period in 2019.

“We know that this pandemic has put an enormous strain on people financially but our data shows that strain is also being felt in people’s relationships,” the chief analyst for Citizens Advice, Tom MacInnes, told the BBC.

MacInnes said that searches for divorce advice surged on weekends, resulting in record-breaking demand placed on the charity’s website.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers also said the pandemic had “exacerbated” marriage problems.

The law firm said there was an increase in the advice given to people on conveyancing, indicating that there is “an increase in couples separating and wanting to sell their properties”.

Georgina Chase, a family lawyer at the firm, said that 30 per cent of divorce enquiries were from married couples who had their relationship issues “exacerbated” during the lockdown.

“It’s an extreme change of circumstances for spouses and any issues in the marriage have been compounded by lockdown, that’s where we are seeing the increase,” she said, adding: “It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

In June, the House of Commons passed the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, paving the way for no-fault divorces to become the law of the land by the Autumn of 2021, eliminating a spouse’s ability to contest a divorce.

The law will speed up the divorce process and likely increase the number of separations, which stand at some 100,000 per year in England and Wales.

The introduction of no-fault divorces in the United States, for example, have been linked to rising divorce rates, with a six-fold increase in separations seen in the two years following the introduction of the legislation.

The United Kingdom was already facing a marriage crisis ahead of the Chinese virus, with marriage rates plummeting to the lowest level in recorded history, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed in April.

The marriage rate for heterosexual couples in Britain fell by 45 per cent since 1972 and by half since 1940. Despite the population of the UK more than doubling since 1895, the total number of marriages recorded in 2017 was equal to that of 125 years ago.

Many have pointed to government policies that disincentivise marriage, through its attempt to encourage women to enter the workforce as a  driver of the decreased marriage rates. Women now represent the majority of new entrants the workforce in the UK, which has had a significant knock-on effect on the rates of marriage, birth, and fertility in the country.

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