The coronavirus crisis has been taking its toll on marriages as couples look to separate after being cooped up together during lockdown.
Inquiries for divorce have more than doubled since COVID-19 hit Australia, according to national divorce, information and mediation group, The Separation Guide.
The figures are particularly dire for couples in the nation’s coronavirus capital Victoria, who represent 40 per cent of this increase.
Financial pressure, job loss and mental health issues are some of the key triggers for relationship breakdowns during the COVID-19 crisis.
The coronavirus crisis is breaking down marriages as couples look to separate after being cooped up together during lockdown
Relationship breakdowns are particularly dire for couples in the nation’s coronavirus capital Victoria, (pictured a couple sit in front of the Melbourne skyline) who represent 40 per cent of this increase in inquiries for divorce
Reid Family Lawyers managing director Fiona Reid said the crisis has been causing chaos for couples who are unable to escape their homes despite the tension.
‘Family homes are being turned into battlegrounds by COVID-19,’ Ms Reid told the Australian Financial Review.
The lockdown has resulted in couples being forced to remain under the same roof despite the loss of love due to financial stress and stay at home directives.
Some couples have been forced sleep in sheds and granny flats, or couch surf with friends or families to weather out the relationship breakdowns.
One couple, from North Sydney, separated after 15 years together but continue living in the same home out of fear of financial struggles.
While COVID-19 has strengthened some relationships it has broken others (pictured: a pair hold hands as they walk through Sydney’s CBD during the pandemic)
The lockdown has resulted in couples being forced to remain under the same roof despite the loss of love due to financial stress and stay at home directives (Pictured: a man and woman shelter under an umbrella in the rain in Melbourne)
The pair has opted to sleep in separate rooms and restrict communication rather than selling their family home at a loss – which is their biggest financial asset.
‘Both spouses will not – or cannot – move out due to isolation restrictions. From what already is a difficult time, separations are becoming even more stressful and unpleasant for both parties,’ Ms Reid said.
On top of the figures from the Separation Guide, monthly divorce inquiries also doubled at Ms Reid’s law firm which specialises in divorce settlements.
Despite relationship breakdowns the fear of financial devastation is resulting in many couples avoiding the official divorce route.
This is because any disagreement can carry the burden of a $100,000 visit to the Family Court as couples fight over assets or child rearing arrangements.
Divorce fees also tend to cost between several hundred dollars to tens of thousands depending on assets involved.
But divorce specialists say the do-it-yourself method can cause serious legal ramifications and tax traps.
COVID-19 is putting increased pressure on relationships as couples battle financial pressure, job loss and mental health issue (Pictured: a couple walk hand in hand in Melbourne’s CBD wearing face masks)
Even if a couple verbally agrees for one occupant to remain in the family home, without any official changes to titles both occupants are legally entitled to remain.
‘If there are no court orders being breached, crimes taking place or safety concerns, not even police can enforce the removal of an occupant,’ Reid said.
Instead couples who have fallen out of love are urged to try and negotiate a settlement out of court.
H&R Block Director of Communications Mark Champman says decisions around assets and debt, financial contributions and child care should be formalised through court orders.
This would prevent potential trip ups at tax time including around capital gains tax.