Divorce ‘boom’? The impact of the UK lockdown on marriages 

As we “cautiously” come out of our long winter lockdown, most people are looking forward to getting back to some sense of ‘normal’. But, for some, the impact of living under restrictions has been a lot greater than not being able to go to the pub or visiting a salon. The stresses and strains of the pandemic has put huge pressure on couples. And, according to research from law firm Simpson Millar, many more marriages are being pushed to breaking point.    

When do divorces normally occur? 

Believe it or not, there’s an ‘unofficial’ Divorce Day in the UK. This is where lawyers reportedly see a spike in the number of couples looking to part ways. In ‘normal’ circumstances, this has been the first Monday after New Year’s Day.  

Of course, the lockdown restrictions have meant life has been anything but normal since March 2020. Yet, it’s interesting to see that early January still seems to be a ‘popular’ time of year for people searching “divorce”. Mind you, it does align with the start of the third UK lockdown. 

Locked down, breaking up: The impact 

The other spike reported by Simpson Millar came in mid-November – the start of the second UK lockdown. Not only that, but the weeks immediately after a lockdown announcement also led to a sharp increase in web traffic and enquiries to specialist divorce solicitors.  

But what is it about lockdown that is sparking this apparent boom in matrimonial breakdowns?  

David Lister, partner and head of family law at Simpson Millar, explains: “The last 12 months have been undeniably challenging, with many couples feeling the pressures of home working, childcare, home-schooling and in some instances a reduced income too. 

“As such, it’s no surprise that such an intense period is leading to more divorces, and as lockdown eases, we expect that more people will move forward with their plans to part ways.” 

Why are more people now thinking about divorce? 

From this, it’s perhaps more understandable why more couples are thinking about separating. The lockdown put new – and greater – strains on day-to-day life than could’ve been imagined when exchanging vows. As such, hard choices are now being made across the country. 

Childcare, home-schooling, or not being able to work create unique pressures. And there can be an emotional or behavioural effect of these pressures. While the latest ONS data currently only shows data for up to the end of 2019, you can see why some couples part ways. 

That ONS data shows that “unreasonable behaviour” is one of the most common legal grounds for divorce in the UK. And that can include violence; insults or threats; excessive use of alcohol or drugs; or financial conflict – such as not contributing towards shared living expenses.   

The lockdown has taken its toll on so many people in so many different ways. Some are more visible than others too. Marriages are often personal and therefore kept private. But a “boom” in divorces is one of the most unfortunate and hidden outcomes of the difficult times we’ve all been living through. But, with the right legal team, it can at least be made less stressful. 


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