Splitsville: Why Aussies are breaking up after COVID
Australians are turning to family lawyers in "unprecedented" numbers to inquire about separation and divorce post-COVID.
And family law experts forecast the numbers will only get worse as the economic uncertainty brought on by the lockdowns eases.
Vanessa Hernandez from Australian Family Lawyers said calls to the firm have almost doubled in the last 12 months, up 95 per cent on this time last year.
"Australian Family Lawyers have been taking unprecedented numbers of calls from people inquiring about family law rights, separation and divorce," she told News Corp.
"We saw a huge spike in calls in July when the national lockdowns ended and another large spike in calls in November mostly from Victorians when the lockdowns there ended."
Ms Hernandez tipped the situation to get worse, with many warring couples holding off on a split because of the current economic uncertainty.
"It really has been the perfect storm of financial stress, job losses, loss of social networks and isolation, with work from home creating relationship pressure as well," she said.
"It also takes 12 months between starting separation proceedings and when the divorce paperwork is officially completed, so we expect to see a rise in the divorce rate later this year," she said.
Custody arrangements had to be renegotiated for many children with parents living interstate.
Domestic violence matters, which increased through lockdowns, were expected to drive up divorce rates this year.
"Domestic and family violence is a pandemic within the pandemic," Ms Hernandez said.
"Now that lockdowns have lifted in most areas there is the opportunity for people to contact lawyers discreetly and out of earshot of their partners; again this might mean there are more separations and divorces to come."
COVID has also compounded the already overburdened family law court system leading to more demand for mediation and arbitration for divorce settlement.
Partner at law firm O'Sullivan Davies Nicola Watts said the Board of the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators (AIFLAM) had seen sessions in arbitration training for lawyers sellout since they started mid-last year.
"The court system is in crisis, the delays are increasing and increasing and I think arbitration and mediation continues to be seen as a much quicker alternative," Ms Watts said.
"We're looking at three years to get a trial after you issue proceedings. You don't usually issue proceedings the day you separate, you might not issue proceedings for a year down the track."
Divorce mediation via Zoom was popular during lockdowns as people could negotiate matters without lengthy court delays.
Cheryl Duffy, the founder of The Divorce Centre, certified divorce coach and author of The Divorce Tango, said inquiries for mediation and co-parenting coaching increased tenfold since January.
Ms Duffy said infidelity was still largely at the core of splits but she was seeing more aggrieved partners that felt they were in abusive relationships.
"People have had tensions that have been high whether that be from financial stress or actually just not being able to get out of the house. Now people are just wanting to get out because they want some peace and they want to move on," she said.
"It's even impacted on extended family like grandparents and they don't have any rights."
Originally published as Splitsville: Why Aussies are breaking up after COVID