PANDEMIC DIVORCES - THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON DIVORCE AND FINANCIAL SETTLEMENT


During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a surge in divorce rates and it is predicted that those rates will continue increasing throughout 2021. Some people have found that sharing work and home space, as well as the pressures of homeschooling and health issues, has become too much for them, and their relationship has broken down.



DOES LOCKDOWN CAUSE DIVORCE?

Most divorce solicitors will agree that there is a surge in divorce enquiries following spouses spending a greater amount of time together, such as the Christmas period and Summer holidays. Lockdown is similar to those extended times, but with a lot more pressure due to finances and health etc.


The lockdown restrictions imposed in March 2020, November 2020 and more recently in January 2021 saw couples spending a lot more of their time with their other half. Unfortunately, this has exacerbated any potential marital issues within their relationship. Even strong couples who were not having issues prior to the pandemic and prevented significant changes in family dynamics could be at risk of breaking up. Because of the pandemic, well-established routines that provided ease, security, and rhythm have been disrupted.


Couples seeking divorce advice have also been prompted by financial difficulties, with a rise in unemployment and job security issues linked to the pandemic.


However, with the country now starting to ease restrictions, couples are not being forced to spend as much time together as they were during lockdown.



WILL THERE BE A DELAY TO MY DIVORCE DUE TO THE LOCKDOWNS?

Our Family Department moved to remote working as soon as the first lockdown was confirmed in March 2020 and we have continued to see new and existing cases progress without delay. We have adapted to the current lockdown restrictions by having some members of staff in the office and the remainder operating remotely. This has had no effect on the service we provide to our clients.


Submitting a divorce application online is the quickest way to begin divorce proceedings. Our solicitors have access to the online divorce portal. We use the portal to file an application on behalf of the party seeking a divorce (otherwise known as the Petitioner). It is still possible to make a paper-based application, if needed, however with fewer court staff available to process the application, this is where you may see a slight delay. We would recommend that you submit your divorce application online.



WHAT CHALLENGES HAS COVID-19 POSED IN TERMS OF FINANCIAL SETTLEMENT?

It is hard to say what legal developments will arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however the main challenge at this current time is the quantification of assets.


When providing advice and negotiating a settlement, it's important to quantify assets. As the value of assets, companies, savings, and pensions has fluctuated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to obtain an accurate valuation. Our solicitors can provide you with advice on whether or not is worth holding off on settlement until there is more market certainty.


Difficulties may also occur when putting a financial settlement into practice, but some elements of orders may be varied, such as:-


  • Spousal Maintenance - If your order calls for spousal maintenance payments, these may be increased or decreased, as well as the duration. There are likely to have been income adjustments at this time, and you might be able to request a payment variation to represent the change in your circumstances.

  • Lump Sum Payments (by instalments) – These can be changed if necessary, although the amount to be paid is rarely changed, and you will more likely be given more time to pay.

  • Practical Elements - Terms relating to the functional aspects of the settlement can be changed if the fundamentals of the settlement do not change. For example, an order requiring the immediate selling of a family home may be amended to allow for more time for the sale, taking into account the fact that your local estate agents are closed, and so on.



Our knowledgeable and professional Family Law department are here to assist you. The team will assist you in divorcing during the pandemic, keeping you updated at all times and advising you on the latest online systems.



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