Lockdowns send Mersey divorce enquiries soaring

Law firm Jackson Lees, based in Liverpool, says the COVID-19 lockdowns have led to spike in enquiries about divorce and child access over the past 12 months. Tony McDonough reports

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Divorce enquiries have soared at Liverpool law firm Jackson Lees


A Liverpool law firm says a year of COVID-19 lockdowns has led to record numbers of people in Merseyside seeking a divorce.

Jackson Lees, which also has offices in Wirral and Manchester, says January and September are traditionally when divorce enquiries peak with Christmas and family summer holidays pushing couples to breaking point.

However, with families forced to spend weeks and months together at a time due to multiple COVID lockdowns and an increase in people working from home, tensions within relationships have come to the surface and the firm’s family lawyers are now seeing a “consistent stream”of enquiries over divorce and child access.

And, 35% more men got in touch in 2020 than in 2019, compared with 27% more women, highlighting how an increased number of fathers have struggled with access to their children during lockdown periods.

According to Jackson Lees, its busiest months during the past 12 months were June and July 2020, with enquiries up 74% and 80%, respectively, on 2019. Overall, the practice has seen an 11% increase in family law-related enquiries over the past 12 months.

Head of family law at Jackson Lees, Jenniffer Brunt, said: “Traditionally, we see January and September as being our busiest months for enquiries – this is after the summer holidays and after Christmas.

“However, with the various lockdowns and tier systems that have been in place over the last 12 months, it’s thrown out any sort of seasonal trend and there’s no specific ‘busy period’.

“Instead, we are seeing people approach us after months and months of being locked indoors together, when they have maybe spotted certain behaviours in their other half or when they have had the time to sit down as a couple and talk about issues in a relationship.

Parenthood, father, dad, child, children
There has also been a rise in fathers claiming they have been denied  access to their children


“Likewise, the extra time to think has given many people the opportunity to get the ball rolling with proceedings, perhaps after years of putting it off – they want to start a new chapter and lockdown has given them the kickstart they needed.”

Ms Brunt says there was around a third more enquiries relating to children in 2020, compared to 2019. She added: “With constant changes in restrictions and uncertainty around what we could and couldn’t do, parental alienation has been a major issue for a lot of people.

“We’ve seen some parents being denied access to their children, with lockdown rules being blamed when, in fact, this has never been part of any lockdown guidance.

“As we move through the roadmap out of lockdown and we’re able to do a little bit more outside of our household, we’re expecting to numbers begin to level off; however, the potential damage that the last 12 months has had on people’s mental health and relationships is, unfortunately, likely to cause numbers to remain high for some time.”

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