It’s been a tough year for all of us, but as 2020 comes to an end, hope is on the horizon with a COVID-19 vaccine approved and a vaccination programme already ongoing. Hopefully, there will be more to come at the beginning of 2021 and we can start to get back to life as normal.
The lockdowns and restrictions that have resulted from COVID have meant that life has been anything but normal for everyone – more difficult for some than others. Families have been forced to spend more time with each other as mixing with others and socialising have been restricted. Some families have weathered the storm, enjoying having more time to spend with each other, particularly with children, and having time to get more done around the house, but for some, it is a different story altogether. The pressures relating to spending long periods of time together, worrying about job stability and dealing with childcare issues, particularly when a relationship was already strained, have meant that COVID has been the last straw and they have decided it is time to call it a day and separate.
Divorce has been more complex during the COVID restrictions, particularly where courts have struggled with timing and adapting to remote hearings, but the number of people thinking about it has increased. Citizens Advice says that there was a 25% increase in people viewing its divorce webpage in September 2020 compared with 2019 and Relate estimates that 12% (one in eight) of couples have relationship doubts following lockdown. This rises to 21% of 25- 34 year olds. All in all, family relationship professionals in the UK expect an increase in the number of people deciding to separate and divorce when lockdown comes to an end.
Here at Family Matters, however, we have continued to be able to help those who have decided to come to mediation to deal with their relationship issues. Our online mediation service has been in high demand, and in some months has increased by 50 percent based on the same time last year. Many couples have realised that using mediation is a more accessible and less stressful way to separate and deal with issues such as finances and children.
Children are always affected when their parents separate. Some parents will have found the situation during lockdown overwhelming. There are bound to have been differences of opinion between parents about how they deal with COVID restrictions and protect their children at the same time. Should I go to work? Should I go to the gym? Should the children go to school? A myriad of questions will have needed answers. When parents are already separated, these issues, plus additional childcare responsibilities and online schooling, for example, have made things extremely difficult indeed, but we have been able to help many parents, such as Sally and Joe come to an agreement about their children by using online mediation.
Some people have been surprised to find online mediation works better. They don’t have to worry about coming to a strange place, organise parking or arrange childcare. In financial cases, people are able to have all their documentation in front of them instead of trying to find it in a file during the mediation. People who have health or anxiety issues find mediating from home easier as do people with health or mobility issues. Parents who live some distance apart can mediate from their own homes and neither has to travel.
Whilst we cannot promise that 2021 will be a better year for everyone in relation to COVID, we are certainly hopeful. However, we are sure that mediation can continue to offer hope for couples and parents now and in the future. We will continue to offer mediation online, so you can remain in the safe space at your own home. Mediation has certainly helped many people who have been happy to give us some very positive comments – which you can read here. Contact us now and see if we can help you.