The pandemic break-up boom: how divorce rates are on the rise

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The emotional and socio-economic stresses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the disruption to daily routines, loss of face-to-face contact with friends and family, as well as the removal of external leisure activities, have led to many couples reassessing their domestic arrangements and deciding to go their separate ways. This, in turn, has recently led to a significant rise in divorce rates, both in the UK and globally.

With couples being forced to spend more time together due to lockdown and social distancing measures, this has magnified any differences and thereby acted as a catalyst for the failure of those relationships already on the brink of a break-up. Even for couples in previously healthy relationships, the pandemic has taken away the comfort and stability of well-established work and leisure routines, with limited opportunities to seek other forms of support, stimulation or release beyond their own partnership or immediate family unit.

That said, this is not a new phenomenon, where separations typically spike after families spend longer periods of time together, such as during the school holidays. However, lockdown has created enormous additional pressures, like the need for home-schooling and an increase in domestic workloads, not to mention the loss of employment or reduction in income from being furloughed. With these extra everyday and potentially long-term stresses, inevitably comes an increase in mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, and in some cases, an even greater incidence of domestic abuse, both physically and emotionally.

For many couples, where both individuals have felt unable to cope with their own personal problems, let alone what is going on between them and their partner, this has put a significant strain on their relationship, ultimately leading to permanent separation or divorce. For newly weds in particular, the stripped-back lifestyle and economic downturn created by the pandemic is also likely to represent the first major life challenge for a young married couple, where their relationship has not been previously tested. This will be a far cry from the wedded bliss they envisaged, and for many has signified a premature end to married life.

If you add into the equation the uncertainty as to when couples will be able to resume their pre-pandemic lifestyles, even with the promise of vaccines being quickly rolled out, there may be an even greater increase in divorce rates over the coming months. Indeed, the impact of the pandemic is likely to have long-term financial implications for many marriages. It is also possible that even an upturn in economic fortunes could result in a new wave of break-ups, where couples whose marriage has already suffered irreparable damage may be delaying getting divorced for practical and logistical reasons during the current tiered restrictions.

Given the enormity of the personal consequences caused by the pandemic, not least emotionally and psychologically, many couples are likely to have spent some considerable time scrutinising their lifestyle and relationship choices – from how they want to spend their time to whom they actually want or need in their lives. As such, as with the epidemic itself, the pandemic break-up boom may be far from over.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained herein are intended to be for general information purposes only. This blog does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law and should not be treated as such.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.