Reports from China are stating that the number of divorce filings in the country has soared following the lifting of lockdown restrictions; can we expect the UK to follow a similar trend?
China’s emergence from lockdown
Since government-enforced lockdown in China has been gradually lifting in parts of the country as of late March, the number of divorce filings amongst Chinese couples has soared.
Whilst official nationwide divorce statistics are not available yet, being released only annually by the Communist Party of China, reports are coming in from the Marriage Registry in China showing that the government offices in Xi’an and Shanghai have been overwhelmed with record-high numbers of divorce filings.
Social media posts and reports state that queues to the offices are extending into the street outside, with staff being overworked in an effort to keep up with demand.
Why are Chinese couples divorcing due to lockdown?
With couples under enforced quarantine together across China for two months, underlying problems in relationships were worsened by the constant close proximity, causing a breakdown in relationships on a large scale. This was further complicated by the fact that the forced lockdown fell as Chinese New Year was beginning.
During Chinese New Year, almost 3 billion trips are made annually as the majority of the Chinese population, including many people oversees with Chinese heritage, travel to stay with extended family in their hometowns; for many, this meant lockdown occurred whilst they were staying with their family, and the forced isolation with family over this extended period may also have caused relationships to suffer.
Rising domestic abuse levels.
The lockdown creates another problem for many UK couples in regards to domestic abuse. In the enforced lockdown, many in abusive relationships are given no respite from abuse, with UK charities reporting that the number of calls received about domestic abuse has increased hugely since lockdown began.
I would suggest seeking refuge first and foremost in the form of a charity or other safe space, followed by immediate legal support to ensure your long-term safety and wellbeing. If people can contact us over the telephone, we can support them and take their case to court if necessary.
If you are trapped in an abusive relationship or know someone who may be, please see the UK Government’s page on domestic abuse for full information and available charities.
Whether an increase in domestic abuse has had or will have any impact on quarantine divorce rates remains to be seen, however it is possible that the increase in domestic abuse may be a contributing factor to increased divorce rates.
Will the UK see an increase in divorces?
With UK couples in a similar situation to China’s couples during quarantine, many speculate that the UK will follow suit and see a huge increase in divorces once lockdown lifts.
Annually, the two highest points of the year in terms of divorce rates are typically in January and August due to the holiday periods preceding them; the increased time spent together for many couples worsens problems in a relationship.
The difficulty is that parties are in a situation where, locked down together, cracks in the relationship become amplified.
For many couples, the lockdown is the defining change which may cause a divorce after months of deliberation; We have had couples contact us with concerns over their relationship prior to lockdown who had not fully made their mind up in regards to getting a divorce; the current situation might tip them over the edge.
Other 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.”
All factors seem to point towards an increase in UK divorces once lockdown lifts, however the scale at which this will occur has yet to be determined without official records from China to set a precedent.
It does, however, seem certain that this lockdown will have long-term impacts on the relationships of many couples nationwide.
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.