Will self-isolating lead to more divorces? A family lawyer weighs in
VANCOUVER -- Many couples who typically spend their days apart working in separate offices have been forced to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes in extremely close quarters.
Now, instead of waving goodbye in the morning and spending eight hours apart, some people don’t even have a door to separate them from their spouse, which can cause tension or exacerbate existing problems in a relationship.
Family lawyer Stuart Zukerman spoke to CTV Morning Live on Thursday about whether he thinks there will be a rise in divorce applications as people self-isolate and how to manage relationship issues that may have intensified.
Zukerman said that a relationship's weaknesses will be amplified during the pandemic as people spend increased time together. He suggests setting some ground rules, boundaries and structure around how to manage your relationship while you're both at home to help minimize conflict.
"For example, having set times when one party's going to be doing their remote working and the other party agrees that they're not going to interrupt them during their work time," he says. "Agree that certain nights of the week or one night of the week will be the night that they address conflicts that they have with each other instead of arguing every night."
Another way to manage those discussions is to set some ground rules, like not swearing or raising voices, he says.
Data out of Hubei province in China suggests there has been a large increase in divorce filings after the quarantine, Zukerman says, and there's been some anecdotal evidence out of Europe that some divorce filings there are also increasing.
"It is being predicted by many psychologists, counsellors and divorce lawyers that divorces will increase following this quarantine. Just as others are predicting an increase in maybe a boomer, baby population after months of couples being kept together," he says. "So both sides of the coin are there."
But if the tensions at home have reached a point where the relationship is no longer sustainable, Zukerman says the option to file for divorce is still available. Since lawyers have been deemed an essential service, most law firms are open and able to provide clients with consultations on the phone or videoconference, he says.
"Even though the courts are closed for most hearings, you can file for divorce. That can be done by e-filing, electronic filing, by your divorce lawyer," he says. "In urgent cases, the court will allow applications for an urgent hearing. There is an obligation to establish to the court first to get permission from a judge over the internet for a hearing to take place."
He says generally hearings will be permitted for anything related to the protection of children or emergency restraining orders, but otherwise, the courts are being restrictive on what is being heard.
Watch the full interview attached to this article for more information on what to do if you're considering filing for divorce and how couples who are separated can continue to co-parent during the pandemic.