Pandemic causes divorce enquiries to increase

Couple removing wedding rings

Divorce enquiries have increased by 40% during the lockdown caused by Covid-19. Here, Amy Kwil from Ison Harrison explains why any major changes to your life should also lead to major changes to your will.

The pressures of lockdown, paired with the financial woes of furlough and unemployment, has led to more people seeking the advice of family law solicitors like ourselves in recent months.

At the beginning of the UK’s nationwide lockdown in March, many divorce lawyers predicted the divorce rate would rise, following the patterns often seen after summer holidays and Christmas when couples spend more time together than usual.

Sadly, the pressures of the pandemic have led to many couples reaching breaking points in their relationships. The recent strains placed on partnerships are taking their toll across the world, with one legal practice in Western China dealing with 300 couples requesting a divorce in just three weeks.

Britain’s divorce rate was falling faster than anywhere else in Europe in January. However, the unprecedented effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have led to an unfortunate turnaround in the demand for divorces.

Understanding the complexities

Handling divorce paperwork is a notoriously stressful task. Couples are faced with dividing assets, deciding on custody arrangements and working out any maintenance payments. Another item on this checklist is to consider what divorce may mean for your will.

Although separations happen in their thousands every year, confusion remains regarding what happens to an existing will when the will-maker gets divorced.  

There are two stages to divorce in England and Wales:

  • After the grounds for divorce have been established, a divorce petition is served by one spouse to the other and filed at Court. Once all the necessary legal requirements have been satisfied, the Court will then issue a decree nisi.
  • If, after a further six weeks, there have been no reasons presented to the Court not to proceed with the divorce, a decree absolute is then issued which dissolves the marriage and deems the parties divorced.

Often, divorcing couples will have already spoken to their solicitors about making a new will during proceedings and before the decree absolute is granted. If this is yet to happen, it is important for divorcing spouses to have this conversation with a professional and make a new will.

In England and Wales, if a person gets divorced, any will they have already made is not automatically revoked and still stands. Their existing will is still valid. To avoid further anxiety during this difficult process, make sure that you update your will according to your wishes.

Making changes

If you have separated or have recently started divorce proceedings, Will Aid is a great way to get this part of the process sorted.

During the month of November, you can have a basic will professionally written by a participating solicitor. Instead of paying a fee for this service, you can make a voluntary donation to Will Aid; this contribution is then divided between nine charities.

Just as Will Aid offers relief during the uncertainties of divorce, a simple donation could offer relief to others who may need it through the life-saving work of the nine partner charities.

Will Aid solicitors will be following the most up-to-date government health advice to ensure that face-to-face meetings remain safe. Many firms will be able to write wills at a distance via a phone or online consultations. Some firms will only be offering their services remotely. Participating firms can be contacted directly for more information

If you would like to have your will written through Will Aid, you can find your nearest participating solicitor and book an appointment here: https://lookup.willaid.org.uk/#/

To take part in Will Aid 2020 or to find out more information about participating in the campaign, visit https://www.willaid.org.uk/solicitors. Alternatively, if you have any questions or would like to talk through the scheme, please contact the Will Aid publicity team on [email protected]