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More acrimonious divorce during the pandemic: lawyers

TORONTO – Stressors linked to COVID-19 have led to an increase in marital tensions, and as the pandemic enters its second year, lawyers say these divorces are becoming increasingly acrimonious and longer as a result.

Toronto-based family law firm Shulman & Partners LLP said it had seen a “significant increase” in divorce applications during the initial foreclosure period. After working from home became commonplace, it forced couples to spend more time with each other, increasing the likelihood of marital conflicts.

“What it did was it started to bring up underlying issues in relationships, things that people used to sweep under the rug. They were able to do that because they spent their days in the office. work, ”said Laura Paris, lawyer for Shulman & Partners. by phone Tuesday.

The pandemic-related job losses and layoffs have also caused financial hardship for some couples, leading to more marital disputes. Paris says these situations also forced them to reveal financial secrets that people may have kept from their spouses.

“Some people thought that they were in a specific financial situation and that they would be able to overcome a temporary situation like this. Then the reality started to surface that people were not necessarily in the situation. financial who they thought they were, ”she said.

It is difficult to quantify how much the pandemic has affected the divorce rate in Canada due to a lack of data. Statistics Canada stopped publishing data on marriages and divorces in 2008.

However, a survey conducted by market research firm Finder Canada and published in March 2021 found that 15% of Canadians – married and unmarried – had experienced a breakup since the start of the pandemic.

Law firms had traditionally seen an increase in divorce cases in January, which has been dubbed “divorce month.” However, given the high number of inquiries his firm is already dealing with, Paris doesn’t expect to see the usual New Year’s spike in divorce cases.

Pandemic stressors not only contribute to an increase in divorces, but they also make such divorces more acrimonious. Paris says his firm is seeing more and more clients seeking more aggressive litigation rather than attempting to seek a settlement.

“We’re seeing more and more cases where people are more like, ‘I don’t care what it costs, I just want to fuck the other person.’ It gets a lot harder for us to have the kinds of conversations where we try to talk them off a ledge, ”she explained.

“Dealing with a divorce in itself is difficult. At any point in your life it will be a difficult process to go through. Add that to a pandemic… it just adds up and everyone breaks up.”

On top of that, the backlog in the court system adds another layer of stress for couples going through a divorce. Even before COVID-19, some cases could take years to conclude.

“The problem we’re seeing now is that it’s very difficult to get these dates (in court) so you see these really high conflict situations dragging on and unfortunately that tends to lead to increased legal fees,” increased stress and sometimes that only worsens the conflict, ”said Paris.

Paris says divorcing Canadians should choose a good lawyer who matches their values ​​and try to reach an out-of-court settlement, which will almost certainly be faster, cheaper and less stressful.

“It’s always best if people move on as quickly as possible. You don’t want to live in this kind of negative state for an extended period of time.”