For some, life in lockdown due to the coronavirus may feel similar to holidays like Christmas — but that’s not necessarily a good thing, as prolonged periods together can prove make or break for a relationship.
This was the argument made by leading U.K. divorce lawyer Baroness Fiona Shackleton of Belgravia in the U.K.’s parliament last week. She said that lawyers in the sector had predicted a likely rise in divorce rates following “self-imposed confinement.”
“Our peak times are after long exposure during the summer holiday and over Christmas,” she said. “One has only to imagine what it will be like when families are sealed in a property for a long period of time.”
Hardeep Dhillon, consultant solicitor of family law at Richard Nelson, said that after Christmas the U.K. legal firm noted a 230% increase in the internet search, “I want a divorce.” She’s now expecting a similar trend in the U.K., especially following reports of a rise in couples looking to split in China, where the virus outbreak originated and people have been in lockdown for much longer.
Like Christmas, more time spent together in self-isolation will put a strain on relationships “where problems already exist,” said Dhillon.
She added that the financial pressures of Christmas compares to the feelings of uncertainty around money, employment and health created by the coronavirus, compounded by the fact that the current need for isolation “is something that many have not experienced before.”
Salma Butt, head of family law at Freeman Harris, also suggested that this period of isolation could prove hard for couples given there is no definitive end in sight.
“Attending school, working, meeting family and friends and socializing are essential for ones mental and physical well being,” she said. “Thus, restricting those liberties, albeit for the benefit of the nation, will undoubtedly have a profound effect on families cooped up at home with no outlet to release their frustration.”
Pressure cooker ‘waiting to blow’
Ayesha Vardag, founder of divorce lawyers Vardags, said she expected the firm’s “phones to go quiet” when the coronavirus crisis hit, against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and “a fear of taking big steps in wild and scary times.”
However, she said that her firm had seen a rise in enquiries from couples “who just feel they cannot bear another day with the person they no longer love and are starting, confined together 24/7, even to hate.”
“Stuck in oftentimes confined quarters … it can become a pressure cooker waiting to blow,” she added.
Vardag said her firm had also seen more enquiries relating to disputes over childcare amid the coronavirus crisis.