As the spring bulbs start to push through and the success of the vaccination programme offers us glimmers of hope for a brighter future, some sort of stability and routine is just visible on the horizon. For many exhausted, working parents that all begins to take shape when their children return to school on 8 March 2021.
The effects of a year of lockdowns combined with home-schooling and working from home are starting to become clear. A recent ONS Study, using data collected from England, Scotland and Wales, shone a light on the effect that home-schooling has had on wellbeing. An average of 50% of parents report an impact on their mental health, compared with 28% during the first lockdown in 2020. It has also been well documented that the demands of home-schooling have often fallen firmly on one parent. Even when both parents are working from home, 67% of women in, a heterosexual partnership, say they feel disproportionately affected.
Sian Kenkre, family lawyer at The Wilkes Partnership comments, “We usually see a peak in requests for family law advice in September after the long school holidays, and then again after Christmas. This pattern extended as we noticed a sharp increase in enquiries at the end of the first lockdown in 2020”.
Many of those enquiries came from women saying that the effects of the lockdown had brought problems in relationships and domestic arrangements into sharp focus. Under ‘normal’ circumstances these issues may have gone unnoticed as so much time is spent separately; different working routines, time away from the home, but the latest data suggests that this will continue to be a theme in the breakdown of relationships.
With the impact on mental health after an extended period of isolation, worries about job security, finances, and uncertainty about the future, it is not surprising that family lawyers expect to see another surge in divorce enquiries as the restrictions are gradually eased.
The effects of the pandemic on mental health and relationships could be described as the perfect storm. In times of economic uncertainty we know that relationships suffer. Sian continues “I have spoken to many clients during the lockdown period who are struggling to cope with the uncertainties created by the pandemic. Some feel trapped and are worrying about a separation while still cohabiting.
The decision to end a marriage or relationship is deeply personal and, in many cases, a time of great anxiety and sadness. My best advice is to find a lawyer you feel comfortable with. Taking early, practical advice from them to alleviate some of the stress will help you plan for the future”.
Finally, Sian said “Taking initial advice does not mean that you have to follow through with a divorce or separation. It does mean that you are well informed which can help to clarify some of the uncertainties that may be adding to stress levels. A good family lawyer will listen to your concerns, talk you through all of your options, and provide you with clear costs information so that in times of such uncertainty you can have some clarity.”