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With the pandemic putting relationships under pressure and divorce rates recording their biggest percentage rise since 1972, family professionals and support groups are encouraging couples to focus on the wellbeing of the family over the festive season.

Traditionally, more people petition for divorce in January than at any other time of the year, which is attributed to the pressure of the family Christmas get-together.  This season it’s expected that many more relationships, already under stress as a result of the life challenges brought about by coronavirus, will struggle to survive.

Early in the pandemic, a survey by the relationship charity Relate found that nearly a quarter of people reported that lockdown had placed additional pressure on their relationship, creating a ‘make or break’ environment according to the charity.  A follow-on survey, later in the year, found 8% saying lockdown had made them realise they needed to end their relationship, but 43% saying it had brought them closer.  This later finding supports a report[1] by the Marriage Foundation suggesting that more marriages improved during the pandemic than worsened.

Whilst it’s great to hear that seeing more of each other has helped some couples to work on improving their relationships.  Unfortunately, these figures also suggest that vulnerable relationships have felt the impact of the lockdown, for both the close proximity it brought and also the economic and social impact.  As family lawyers we saw the lockdown was hardest on those who were considering or had already started the process of divorce, as many were still living together.

Now we have the pressure of a concentrated, and uncharacteristic, Christmas, where decisions will have to be made about who is part of the bubble, and then further disruption and restrictions ahead.  This month will bring unique challenges, but the months ahead will continue to be a test for everyone’s relationships, against a backdrop of a continuing trend towards divorce.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show an 18% spike in the rates of opposite-sex divorce in 2019 with 107,599 cases.  While the size of the increase is partly due to a backlog of divorce petitions which resulted in higher numbers of divorce petitions completing during 2019, this figure is the highest since 2014.  It is also the largest annual percentage rise since 1972, when The Divorce Reform Act 1969 opened the way to an easier process for divorce.  Alongside, the number of same-sex divorces among both male and female couples has increased each year since

[1] According to analysis of 2,559 parents who completed the UK Household Longitudinal Survey Coronavirus Study conducted by Essex University.

If you need assistance with a family matter please contact our team : [email protected] 

We are offering a free 30 minute consultation during January to assist families you can book that here: https://wollens.co.uk/book-your-free-30-minute-advice-session/