United Kingdom

Family lawyer predicts a surge in divorce applications once lockdown is lifted

A leading family lawyer has predicted a surge in new divorce applications once now that lockdown restrictions are starting to lift. 

Claire Blakemore, 46, who lives in Sussex with husband Mark, 46, and their sons Freddie, 9 and Albert, 7, and is partner in the family law team at WithersWorldwide,  says people have enquired but are 'holding off' for the time-being. 

'With trends in lockdown, there are certainly people who have put off making the decision to divorce or separate and we've seen lots of enquires but people then holding off doing anything - not least because even finding a place to move to has been difficult,' she explained. 

A leading family lawyer has predicted a surge in new divorce applications once now that lockdown restrictions are starting to lift. Stock image

'But we've also seen many people struggling in difficult situations during lockdown and for many the intensity of being in the same household when a marriage is already under strain (whilst also trying to work from home and for some, to home school) has been too much.'

Claire went on to say that divorces are still continuing during these strange times, but that almost all hearings have moved to video or voice calls.

'Remote hearings have increased by 340% during the lockdown period,' she explained. 'However, getting those hearings listed can be difficult as fewer hearings can take place remotely since Covid 19. 

'We've seen many disputes about children spending time with separated parents, some of whom have been in different countries.'

'On the finances, the drop in asset value is problematic for those making claims but beneficial for those against whom the claim is being made – so it's hard getting deals agreed – but not impossible. 

'In some cases deals have been struck and on others decisions made. Having said this, once the lockdown restrictions have been fully lifted we are expecting a surge in new applications.' 

As for the virtual court hearings that have been put in place to adhere to government guidelines, Claire says it is up to the Judge to decide whether the hearing is suitable to be done remotely.

'So it is not guaranteed that the hearing will go ahead,' she explained. 'Unless the hearing is a trial then many are being done by telephone only and only the lawyer is able to speak to the Judge, unless the Judge specifically asks to speak to either party.'

'A challenge is making sure it is possible for instructions to be given by the client to the lawyer, which means there has to be a separate method of electronic communication set up such as Whatsapp – which isn't ideal. 

'You still need to have the means to provide instructions to the lawyer and it's really challenging to do that without having the instant ability to provide comments, say, when witnesses are being questioned.'

How our family has coped during lockdown: A day in the life of a lawyer working from home

Talking through a day in her life, Claire says she sets her alarm at 5.45am - the same time as when she was travelling into London - starts her day with pilates, before putting together all the home schooling exercises for the day.  

After getting the boys up early for breakfast and settled for 'school' by 8.30am, she prepares to start her day in the old tool shed which she made into a home office just before lockdown came into action. 

'Around 1pm is when I usually break for lunch with the boys,' she continued. 'They do some lessons online with their grandparents in the afternoons or with school groups.

Claire Blakemore, 46, who lives in Sussex, is partner in the family law team at WithersWorldwide, and has been working in a converted tool shed amid the coronavirus lockdown

The mother-of-two has revealed what is like to make sure a family isn’t torn to shreds throughout divorce proceedings whilst juggling the homeschooling of her own kids, Freddie, 9 and Albert, 7 (pictured, together)

'We have dinner together as a family early evening and I'll pick up on emails or calls whilst the boys are on wind down or after they have gone to bed – depending on what arises.' 

And like many other parents who have been juggling work with homeschooling their children, Claire, who has a helping hand from husband Mark, has found it 'challenging.' 

'It's challenging and some days are better than others,' she said. 'But my husband is very hands on.   

'My top tip is always focus on what has been achieved rather than what hasn't and then make a plan on how to crack what wasn't done.' 

Claire went on to offer advice to those couples who are struggling to get along amid lockdown. 

'First and foremost, you need to remember that we are human, and that means conflict is a part of our everyday lives, and therefore so is negotiation,' she said. 

Claire has praised husband Mark (pictured, with Freddie and Albert) for being 'very hands on' when it comes to the day-to-day homeschooling of their children amid lockdown

'Think about what you want to achieve before engaging in an argument. Do you want to change your partner’s behaviour, or just make them realise that their actions have consequences?

'Even when you don’t agree with your other half, you should still acknowledge their feelings. The goal is a mutual understanding, and more often than not this is achieved through showing you hear what they are saying, whilst remembering it is ok to agree to disagree.'

She continued: 'Remember that your partner isn’t psychic. Simply wishing that your other half would change their behaviour without voicing that want is only going to end in tears. Speak up and have an honest conversation about things that frustrate you.'   

And for those going through a difficult family breakup, Claire added: 'Surround yourself with the right people – friends and family who will support you but will help you keep perspective balanced, and advisors who want to know what's important for you and will help you get there, not drive you into a course of action that isn't right for you.'

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