Sarah Jane Lenihan, Partner at our London Victoria office shares her thoughts on the impact of lockdown one and the potential long-term implications for relationships as we enter the second lockdown.
How will a second lockdown impact relationships
There was little shock felt as lockdown part two was announced by Boris on Saturday (31st October). It had been on the cards for a while and felt inevitable once our European neighbours reported theirs.
For some very little may change, but for others, this further restriction to freedom could be life-changing and have long-term implications for their relationship.
At Stowe, when we first went into lockdown back in March, we saw an initial dip in enquiries before steadily rising to an average increase of 30% during the summer months compared to those last year (with a peak in August of 41%).
As family lawyers, we questioned whether this peak was due to people pausing their original plans to divorce in the early months of the lockdown before picking them back up as restrictions lifted or whether in fact, the pressures of lockdown led to an increase in relationship breakdowns.
As we enter a second lockdown, I do not believe that we will see the initial dip that we saw last time as the way lawyers and family courts work has become a familiar situation. People are now used to accessing services remotely, and ongoing cases will continue.
However, the extra pressure of a second lockdown could push already strained relationships towards separation or divorce.
Surviving the strain of a second lockdown
Has the novelty of working from home, having additional time to pursue hobbies such as yoga or baking that life was too busy to do before worn off?
Will we see the extra strain on parties’ relationship and an increase in separation or will we find that couples have survived this for much longer before and these few weeks will be a breeze?
Our experience from clients is that facing the long-term implications of lockdown: financial difficulty, emotional wellbeing, health worries, differing approaches to the risk of the virus and being unable to socialise, are adding an extra strain on couples’ relationships.
This is backed by research undertaken by Stowe earlier this year which revealed that a lack of personal space topped the list of pressures people felt living with a partner (17%)—closely followed by mental health and financial difficulty (16%).
Other pressures such as work stress (13.5%) and finding a partner irritating (13%) were also common factors.
Isolating in an abusive relationship
Sadly, the impact of a lockdown for those isolated in an abusive relationship can be devasting.
During the first lockdown, tragically, ten women and two children were killed at the hands of their abusive partners.
For those people in abusive relationships, a second lockdown is petrifying with the thought of a further five weeks without being able to escape.
However, for anyone in this situation, please be aware that the government guidance is very clear and household isolation instructions DO NOT apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse, regardless of what your partner may say.
It became very clear during the last lockdown that resources are severally underfunded, and many urgent calls were made to the government to rectify this.
Help and support are available – you can find a list of resources on the Women’s Aid website and how a family lawyer can help here.
Family lawyers and the courts continue to sit and are fully operational, so if you need support, please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialist family law experts to guide you through this difficult time.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, you must contact the police immediately on 999.
If you are finding the second lockdown tough you can access further articles on surviving lockdown here or for recommendations for counsellors and therapists that can offer additional support; please do access our Divorce Directory.
Get in touch
If you would like any advice during the lockdown, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.
We are offering virtual consultations for anyone needing family law or divorce advice and all clients.
To arrange your consultation, call us on 0330 404 6063, and we will book in an appointment at a time to suit you.