Phones 'ringing off the hook,' family lawyers say amid an increase in couples seeking sepa…

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Some London, Ont., family lawyers are seeing a spike in couples wanting to separate, a decision they say has largely to do with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on families.

Kristine Jackson, a family lawyer, says she has seen an increase in calls at her law firm of couples wanting to separate.

“The stresses of having to parent and be a teacher, people are simply feeling as though they’re not in a position to cope and so they’re choosing to separate,” Jackson told CBC’s London Morning.

“Whether these will ultimately be permanent separations that will go on for years to come is difficult to see, difficult to know.”

One reason couples are calling in is due to being forced to stay home, either for work or to take care of their children, Jackson said.

“In some cases, you’ve got parties who are forced to be working at home, together, you’ve got the added stresses of people not able to have access to some of the outlets that they had before. There’s limited community resources that are available and parties are forced to continually be together, and that can pose challenges,” she said.

London Morning6:59Divorces on the rise

Divorce rates have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. London family lawyer Kirstine Jackson joins London Morning with some advice on first steps for anyone in that stressful situation. 6:59

Stress increasing

Although there is no hard data on the numbers just yet, lawyers specializing in family law say they are busier now than ever.

Eric Vallillee, also a London-based family lawyer, said his firm has seen a one-third increase in the volume of calls in comparison to the previous year. Website traffic has been at its highest as well, he said. 

Much of the added stress caused by the pandemic has played a role in the spike in separations, Vallillee said. 

“The the story doesn’t change much in family law, it’s just a question of how much stress people are under,” Vallillee said. “Oftentimes, people are saying ‘my spouses isn’t helping’ or ‘I don’t think they’re helping as much as they should be.'”

Financial stress, especially in the case of one spouse working and the other not, is also exacerbating many partnerships, he said.

Vallillee said he is unable to accept any new clients until February of next year, which is unusual as the law firm is often only fully booked a few weeks in advance.

The law firm is also seeing many couples who are already separated or living apart calling in about issues of child custody due to a delay in court cases.

“This is always a bad time of year for family court because a lot of people are already in the midst of separations,” Vallillee said. 

But he doesn’t anticipate calls to slow down come next year as he says there is often an uptick in January, after the holidays.

“I always see a little bit of a spike in January, where things have happened over the holidays that are people’s ‘last straw’ and they make the decision, ‘Okay, it’s time, let’s go ahead with the separation,'” Vallillee said.



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