The current COVID-19 situation has already had far-reaching implications in many aspects of our lives, however one aspect of its long-term impact which has so far gone under the radar is its effect on family dynamics.
As experts in family law, this is a question currently on our minds as we look to the future; the enormity of this situation is making itself felt in every area of our society, and our family lives are no different.
From employment to family relationships to wills and estate planning, the lockdown and virus are having and will likely continue to have a heavy impact on the way we live as families.
The strain placed on families thanks to being unable to leave their homes can cause issues – and for those who were already experiencing difficulty, the current situation can exacerbate things. With families who are stuck in the home together for long periods of time, underlying disputes can worsen and new problems arise from the forced close proximity and the stress of the current pandemic.
A recent New York Times article highlights another concern for families and couples in lockdown: domestic abuse has risen hugely since lockdown has begun globally, with many charities struggling to keep up with the increase in calls. The lockdown situation gives many no respite from domestic abuse situations and greatly worsens the impact of abusive relationships.
If you are trapped in an abusive relationship or know someone who may be suffering from domestic abuse, please see the UK Government’s page on domestic abuse for full information and available charities.
A key area of family law we are currently finding has been impacted by the pandemic situation is child access disputes. These can be made more complex and difficult due to the lockdown restrictions caused by the pandemic; official government advice permits a child under the age of 18 to move between households if parents are separated, but many concerned parents are refusing to hand over the child because of health concerns.
While we understand the concerns of parents in these situations, it’s vital that you understand the full legal ramifications of what you are doing. For full legal advice and services based on your situation, contact a professional Family Law firm to ensure you don’t end up falling foul of the law.
Another key area of family law affected by the lockdown will likely be divorce rates. In China, where lockdown restrictions have only recently been lifted, divorce cases have risen steeply. With couples under enforced quarantine together across China for a two-month period, many were struggling to cope with being cooped up with their spouses for the extended period and filed for divorce as soon as the quarantine was over.
Annually, the two highest points of the year in terms of UK divorce rates are typically January and August. The increases in divorce filings at these times of year are commonly due to the holiday periods preceding them; the increased time spent together for many couples worsens or breaks an already fractured relationship.
Because of this and with the precedent set by China, we are fully expecting an increase in divorce filings once the quarantine is lifted.
High-profile lawyers have echoed a similar sentiment: Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, whose previous clients included the Duke of York and Sir Paul McCartney, addressed the House of Lords saying that “The prediction amongst divorce lawyers is that following self-imposed confinement it is very likely that the divorce rate will rise.”
Whilst options are currently limited with the lockdown in effect, many divorce lawyers are still currently available to discuss your situation and begin making arrangements if this is something you wish to take place at the earliest opportunity.
The unprecedented economic impact of Coronavirus will be lasting and difficult to manage and has the potential to be hugely damaging to a large number of families who rely on workers who have now been dismissed from their jobs.
However, the law is on the side of workers who may have been wrongly dismissed or treat unlawfully during the pandemic; if you feel you have a case, contact a professional employment law firm to discuss your situation and determine if there is a legal claim you can make.
Sophia has been with Beecham Peacock since 2003 and a partner in the firm since 2006.
She has 20 years’ experience in family law work. Her particular interests lie in proceedings concerning matrimonial assets and children.
She is an accredited specialist with Resolution in the areas of Advanced Financial Provision and Private Children Law. She is also Accredited on the Law Society Advanced Accreditation scheme for work relating to Domestic Abuse.
Highly motivated with a strong sense of fairness and justice, Sophia always strives for her clients.