Covid divorce boom vs Covid marriage rejuvenation

New Research has revealed that lockdown has helped marriages whereas divorce lawyers have never been busier – but which is it?

The unprecedented pandemic has reshaped personal relationships by forcing us to live in each other pockets but according to Marriage Foundation it has actually been good for marriages.

A new report by the Marriage Foundation found twice as many unions improved during the pandemic than made worse – following an analysis of 2,559 parents who completed the UK Household Longitudinal Survey Coronavirus Study by Essex University.

Only 10% said their relationship had deteriorated in the pandemic, whereas one in five married couples said their relationship became stronger. Furthermore, those surveyed in June, who were thinking of divorce, were below pre-Covid levels.

The research found those unmarried fathers coped much better in the pandemic than before Covid, with reports indicating their relationships were happier in all aspects. Meanwhile, unmarried mothers’ relationships had suffered greatly in the pandemic with treble the odds of a worse relationship than in the two years before Covid.

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of the Marriage Foundation, said:

“Covid has spawned a plethora of inaccurate predictions and a divorce explosion was just one such.

“On the whole marriages have blossomed through lockdown, no doubt because of the extra TLC spouses have been able to invest in their relationships freed from the terrible pressures generated by having to spend a lot of the working week at, or travelling to and from, work.”

Following the survey of parents in June, those considering divorce was down two-thirds compared with pre-pandemic times, at 0.7% for fathers and 2.2% for mothers.

Neil Russell, a solicitor at the London law firm Seddons, who acted on Boris Johnson’s divorce, was unconvinced. “I’m not seeking bragging rights but many of my peers and colleagues who I talk to, we’ve all been really busy,” he said.

“I’ve seen an increase in the number of new instructions for divorce, with many clients citing that they’ve realised how unhappy they are in their marriages now they have to spend so much time together. My clients say their dogs have never had so many walks because they’re leaving the house to talk to me.”

Russell felt that those in strong marriages might have strengthened them even further in lockdown.

“If you’ve got a good marriage then you’re likely to have improved your marriage, because you’ve spent more time together and you’ve been able to enjoy it. Equally, they say no good marriage ends in divorce and it’s the not-so-good marriages that have had further pressures, from the cabin fever, digital lipstick [email and text messages indicating infidelity] and from just not wanting to be together.”

A lawyer who has acted on behalf of royalty, rock stars and the rich, Fiona Shackleton, examined the usual peak season for divorce, such as the Christmas and summer holidays and compared them against the pandemic. She said to the Financial Times recently:

“You’re hermetically sealed, there’s a lot of eating and drinking, then comes the New Year’s resolution — bin the missus”

However, Amanda Major, head of clinical practice at the couples counselling charity Relate, agreed with the findings and reiterated that pandemic had been good for those relationships that were already strong. She said: 

“A lot of couples in Covid time have actually found that because they’ve been together they’ve actually been able to find more time to sit down and talk together. It’s given them sometimes an opportunity to see how well they work together as a team.”

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