COVID-19 – Domestic Violence and the spike in divorce rates

With there being no sign of the lockdown restrictions lifting, thousands of couples living in the UK are struggling to cope with the close proximities they are faced with, in the same household as their spouse and possibly children.

It is clear that the rates of domestic violence in the UK have risen to exceptional numbers. Since the start of lockdown, Refuge has reported a 25% increase in the number of calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline and the Metropolitan Police have made an average of 100 domestic violence related arrests per day since 9th March 2020. They have also set up a project named ‘Counting Dead Women’ which to date has recorded 16 killings of women and children since the lockdown restrictions were formally introduced. In good news, as of today Boots Pharmacies are providing safe spaces for those suffering domestic abuse. Staff are available to be asked by members of the public to use consultation rooms, where they will be able to contact services for help and advice.

Life can be hard when you are unhappy at home without the ability to create temporary separation via family, friends and work. The pandemic has meant that abusers and their victims have no choice but to cohabit, and with the sale of alcohol on the rise and financial difficulty creeping in, the result is the surge of abuse we are seeing.

The House of Commons are in the process of reading the Domestic Abuse Bill and if the Bill is passed in its current form, it would have the following effect:

  • The statutory definition of ‘domestic violence’ would be widened to cover emotional, coercive and economic abuse, as well as physical violence;
  • The police would have greater powers to enforce domestic violence protection orders; and
  • Cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family court would be explicitly prohibited.

What is more, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England Regulations 2020) sets out 13 situations in which an individual would have a “reasonable excuse” for leaving home. Amongst others, these excuses include to access critical public services (including services to victims) and, to avoid injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm – such as domestic violence.

As lockdown continues and domestic violence within the home increases, COVID-19 will undoubtedly also produce a spike in the rates of divorce. Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, leading family lawyer and Solicitor for Prince Charles, speaking in the House of Lords, has said that:

“…often when couples face serious and stressful situations it can lead some to re-evaluate their lives and what is important to them. Whilst we all try to navigate this pandemic as best as possible, it wouldn’t surprise me if, when the dust settles, we do see an increase in couples seeking to end their relationship.”

It may be that you have gone from working in a busy office, to working at home with your family around you. You may have been furloughed and are struggling to cope day to day in an unsafe environment. No matter what the cause is, at Gordons Partnership we understand how stressful and confusing the process of divorce can be. Click here for more information about the services we offer and do not hesitate to contact a member of our team if you have any questions.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, or you know someone who is suffering, for more help and advice please visit ‘Your Sanctuary.’

Author: Amy Archer