B.C. courts could see a surge of divorce filings when COVID-19 lockdown lifts

Click to play video 'Divorce inquiries increase during COVID-19 shutdown' Divorce inquiries increase during COVID-19 shutdown
WATCH: Divorce inquiries increase during COVID-19 shutdown – May 13, 2020

British Columbia’s courts could see a surge in divorce proceedings when the province’s COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Family lawyer Jennifer Rowbotham says that’s in part because of a backlog of cases put on hold due to the pandemic.

READ MORE: China’s divorce rates rise as couples emerge from coronavirus quarantine

But she says in recent weeks she’s also seen a marked uptick in inquiries about separation and divorce — some of them urgent.

“There are probably already issues in the relationship, often there’s some breach of trust of some sort,” she told Global News.

“People are at home, and when there’s been difficulties or tension, because everyone’s home together, it can exacerbate that.”

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Rowbotham said the added financial pressures of the crisis have also played a role.

READ MORE: Baby boom to breakups: Here’s how COVID-19 is testing relationships

In China, where a COVID-19 lockdown has recently been lifted, officials are now dealing with a spike in divorce filings.

Click to play video 'Cooped up Canadian couples want out – surge in divorces result of Coronavirus lockdown' Cooped up Canadian couples want out – surge in divorces result of Coronavirus lockdown
Cooped up Canadian couples want out – surge in divorces result of Coronavirus lockdown – Apr 8, 2020

Under normal circumstances, about 40 per cent of Canadian marriages end in separation or divorce, according to Statistics Canada.

But women’s advocates say there has been a dramatic increase in domestic violence during the pandemic, and Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services says it has seen a 300-per cent increase in calls to its help line.

One Vancouver clinical counsellor says she’s also seen an uptick in infidelity, along with a magnification of day-to-day marital issues.

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“We’re definitely seeing more couples fighting, more couples having issues, conflict, just the little things that usually you can put aside (and) don’t bother you as much, right now blow up,” said Diana Sadat.

“It’s not new problems, it’s existing problems you can’t avoid when you can’t go out with your friends or go to work.”

READ MORE: Calls to Vancouver domestic-violence crisis line spike 300% amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sadat’s advice: If there are things that aren’t working, make some time to talk them out, because they’re very hard to avoid during a lockdown situation.

And for those who realize they’ve reached the end of their marriage, Rowbotham says much of the hard work of splitting up can be done collaboratively — and outside the courtroom.

“Parenting arrangements, child support, spousal support and property and asset division, you don’t need the courts to do that,” she said.

“You just need the courts to eventually get the divorce.”

— With files from Catherine Urquhart