A recent Citizens Advice report shows a 25% increase in internet searches for people seeking divorce guidance in the first weekend of September 2020 compared to the previous year, but does this mean we will see an increase in divorces this year as a direct result of the pandemic?
Are divorce rates rising or falling?
In recent years divorce rates have been falling, from a peak of 160,300 in 1985 to 91,299 in 2018. However, for the first time in many years divorce rates rose in 2019 to 107,599, which is an 18.4% increase on 2018 figures. This increase partly reflects divorce centres processing a backlog of casework in 2018, which is likely to have translated into a higher number of completed divorces in 2019.
It is often reported that September and January traditionally see higher rates of divorce than other months due to families spending more time together or staying together for Christmas or a summer holiday as a last-ditch attempt at mending a strained relationship. However, it remains to be seen whether the pandemic forcing couples to spend prolonged periods of time together has created a ‘boom’ in divorces.
Will we see a ‘divorce boom’?
There is no doubt that the pandemic has put additional pressures on many relationships and families, especially during the lockdown and this has resulted in some couples choosing to go their separate ways.
The lockdown caused families to spend longer durations in each other’s company, often managing work and childcare commitments in confined spaces, with less time apart. Many couples and families have also been impacted by redundancies or being furloughed causing increased financial strain and stress levels. These factors can exacerbate already strained relationships and result in couples considering divorce.
What are my options at the moment?
It is clear from Citizens Advice research that there has been an increase in people seeking information about getting divorced. However, a YouGov poll carried out in April revealed that 28% of respondents said they would be less likely to pursue divorce due to the Covid-19 crisis, with only 6% saying that the pandemic would make them feel more inclined to go through divorce proceedings. The rest said it would either not be a factor in their decision or they did not know if it would be.
Deciding to divorce or separate is often not an easy or straightforward decision, which may be made more difficult by current living arrangements, financial strains or health concerns during the pandemic. However, if you are considering divorce, it is still possible to receive advice or start proceedings despite current restrictions. Our article What is it like to get divorced during lockdown? outlines the process and options available to you at this time.
Can you separate whilst still living together?
It is possible to legally separate whilst still living in the same house and this is common if parties are not in a financial position to pay additional costs to live separately. The only exception to this is when applying for divorce on the grounds of adultery. You cannot get divorced based on the grounds of adultery if you have continued to live in the same house for 6 or more months.
For more information about the grounds for divorce read our Q&A: What are the legal grounds for divorce?
If you are divorcing whilst continuing to live under the same roof, you will need to show the court that you have maintained separate lives whilst still living within the same household, so you should not share a bedroom and you should maintain separate lives. However, this can be complicated, and you may wish to consider a separation agreement to record the official date of separation, as well as setting out the arrangements for living as “separate households” whilst under the same roof.
A solicitor will be able to offer help and advice to ensure you can legally divorce whilst living together and help you create a separation agreement if necessary.
I am not sure whether I want to proceed with a divorce right now
There are many situations and circumstances that can lead to considering a divorce. We understand you might not be ready to proceed with a divorce right now and would simply like to talk through your options and understand the process to help you reach a decision.
Being aware of the options available to you and seeking legal advice early can put you in the best position for a successful outcome when it comes to the arrangements for children and finances.
Our Family Fixed Fee appointments allow you to discuss your case and find out what your options are before you decide whether to take further action. An initial advice appointment with one of our family lawyers is a fixed fee of just £250+VAT plus £13.50 for an ID check.
How Hegarty Solicitors can help
We understand how difficult it can be to seek legal advice when a relationship breaks down or if you are considering divorce, especially under the current circumstances. Our friendly legal experts can talk you through the available options to help you achieve the best outcome possible.
We can advise on amicable and non-confrontational methods of reaching a solution to important issues on the breakdown of a relationship.Make an Enquiry online