Divorce in the time of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The health crisis in which we find ourselves has caused many to experience emotional stress, financial hardship, and feelings of social isolation arising from the act of physical distancing.  These increased stressors can create significant strain on couples. Constantly sharing the same space with your partner can cause even the strongest of relationships to crack. Added to this is the economic strain which many couples and families are experiencing, along with fear about one’s health, and uncertainty surrounding the future. These factors can have a disastrous effect on our closest relationships. Statistics from China reveal that, when the lockdown was lifted, there was an influx of divorce applications. Similar trends are anticipated with divorce in Australia and throughout the world increasing.

COVID-19 and Divorce in Australia

Whilst the strain placed on marriages, and de facto relationships alike, during the pandemic may be transient, some relationships may reach a breaking point and be beyond repair. If this is the case, it is important that you do not feel trapped in a marriage or relationship which has the potential to cause you more emotional or physical harm than the virus itself. This applies to any relationship, but particularly those involving family violence.

Family Violence

Factors such as social isolation and financial insecurity can make it more difficult for those experiencing domestic violence to leave a violent relationship. If you are in this situation, it is important to reach out to a specialist family violence service, develop a safety plan, and seek legal advice in relation to your family law rights and entitlements.

Child Custody and Parenting Arrangements

Any existing Parenting Orders remain in force during the pandemic. However, situations may arise where the Orders are impracticable or no longer compatible with keeping children safe and adhering to public health directions.

If this is the case with the Parenting Orders that apply to your children, it is important to seek legal advice from a family lawyer as to the best way to proceed. It may be necessary to apply to the court for a temporary variation to the Orders to accommodate the changed social conditions during lockdown.

Any Parenting Orders or plans made during the pandemic should contemplate the practical effects of the health crisis on care arrangements for children.

Getting a Divorce in Australia

Some couples may have been considering divorce well before the pandemic and the lockdown and ongoing social distancing measures have cemented your decision to leave your marriage. Notwithstanding the pandemic, if you have been separated for at least 12 months, you can apply for a divorce in Australia

Is the Family Court Still Operating?

The Family Court is continuing to operate but many matters are being dealt with by phone. There is no need to hold off making a family law application, such as an application for divorce or for property orders until after the pandemic.

If you require legal advice on divorce in Australia or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal on 1300 038 223 or via email.

BY: Felicity Reeman, Associate Family Law, Sydney

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