The pandemic is having quite an impact on families and relationships

There’s no doubt that the continuing “stay at home” orders have put a strain on relationships, but for those who are heading for divorce, the pandemic has been particularly difficult.

Working from home and home schooling has disrupted the traditional dynamics of a relationship and it’s left many at the end of their tethers. Add to that any financial pressures of reduced income, furlough or redundancies and being confined to our homes, it’s easy to see why the number of people making divorce enquiries is on the rise.

In our experience, since news has been gathering surrounding a change in the law to introduce no fault divorce people are led to believe that their divorce could be much simpler and more straight forward. Whilst keeping things amicable and keeping communications open will certainly help a divorce process run more smoothly, it is not a guarantee of a simple outcome - or a quick one.

Many couples are often keen to resolve their affairs and with as little emotional strain as possible. However, they may want to think again if they are after a quick divorce, as the importance of resolving their financial affairs shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 determines orders that can be made on a divorce which deal with finances. This includes how the family home will be treated, whether any maintenance will be payable by one party to another and how pensions should be treated. 

The court will take into account various things, such as the resources of the parties and their financial needs, as well as the welfare of any children. Not everyone is aware that even after a couple has divorced, they still have financial claims available to them - unless you obtain a court order dealing with your financial matters.

That’s why we always encourage separating couples to voluntarily complete a court document called a Form E, which is also used in court proceedings. This is the opportunity for each party to set out their financial position and what they expect their future needs and outgoings to be.

However, the emotional pressure of a relationship ending, plus the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic can make resolution even trickier. This doesn’t just apply to finances, but to child care too and it is perhaps not surprising to know that since the pandemic there has been a significant increase in disputes between families who are already separated but who share childcare.

The Government has confirmed that children can move between households where they have separated parents, but this isn’t always enough to stop the fallout. We have heard of many cases where one parent may be breaching an existing court order by not making the child available for contact, or not returning a child after contact.

It’s clear to see that Covid-19 has had and will continue to have an impact on families and relationships.

If you’d like some advice about a divorce or access to children, contact our Family team for more information.