Coronavirus and divorce

Each January, we see a flurry of press reports claiming that the first working Monday of the New Year is the peak day for enquiries to solicitors about divorce proceedings – something often attributed to spending much more time at home with each other than usual during the Christmas and New Year break.

Unsurprisingly, this has led people to speculate that the coronavirus crisis could lead to an increase in divorces, given that couples who may already be experiencing difficulties in their relationships are required to stay at home together for much of the time.

I am considering divorcing

The coronavirus crisis has seen the Stay at Home requirements come into effect at a time when major changes to divorce laws are being considered by Parliament.

As it stands, one party can petition for divorce and must show one of the following to demonstrate that the marriage has broken down irretrievably:

  1. a) unreasonable behaviour
    b) adultery
    c) a period of separation in excess of 2 years if both parties agree
    d) a period of desertion for 2 years
    e) a period of separation in excess of 5 years, where it does not matter if one party objects or not.

The new law is expected to remove the requirement to give reasons and will only require the applicant to confirm that the marriage has broken down irretrievably – a measure known as ‘no-fault divorce’.

It had been expected that this change would come into effect this year. However, the change may be delayed by the impact of coronavirus. The new law may mean that the requirement for two year’s separation has no effect if it comes into force sooner than two years’ from now, as seems likely.

I am living with a partner I wish to divorce

If you are having to follow Stay at Home advice in the same home as your spouse, you should seek opportunities for time apart, whether in different rooms or one of you spending time in the garden.

It is also important to try, as far as possible, not to say things that you regret in the heat of the moment, while confined together.

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