DIVORCE rates are soaring in York as the strain of having been penned up for weeks in lockdown takes its toll.

Lawyers at Stowe Family Law say divorce inquiries in the city were up almost 30 per cent this August compared to August last year.

“That is staggering - and very sad for those involved,” said Rachel Roberts, the law firm’s regional director and a specialist in family law.

York relationships counsellor Sinead Tingley confirmed that she, too, had seen a big increase in relationship problems following lockdown.

“We normally do a lot of couples work after Christmas,” she said. “But we have seen people inquiring since the middle of lockdown - sometimes two or three inquiries every day, far more than usual.”

Experts blame the long weeks when couples were penned up together and unable to escape for many of the problems.

“In some cases I think that has shone a light on relationships that were not in a great place anyway,” said Ms Roberts.

Furlough, worries about losing your job, arguments about who should do housework when both partners were working at home, and disagreements about who should look after children while they were not at school, all added to the pressures on couples, experts say.

Being penned up together at close quarters with no way to escape also made it much harder for partners who were having an affair to hide what had been going on.

Ms Roberts dealt with one case of a successful career woman with a ‘very controlling’ husband who ‘expected her to do all the housework and look after their children, on top of a demanding full time job’.

"Her husband was furloughed whilst she was working long hours, but despite that, he refused to help with home schooling or caring for the children,” said Ms Roberts.

“She also became suspicious that he was having a relationship with someone else, as not long into lockdown he started disappearing and refusing to tell her where he was going. She later discovered that he was having an affair and breaking lockdown to go to the woman’s house. She decided the marriage was over.”

Even where there is no illicit relationship to hide, the stress and anxiety of being cooped up and worried about your job can take its toll on relationships, said Ms Tingley, who runs York-based Serendipity Counselling - especially with the children constantly under your feet.

“You might have had couples who thought their relationship was quite equal, then suddenly one was saying ‘My job is more important than yours, so you look after the kids’."

Even petty grievances could become serious, she said. Couples in stressful situations can get locked into repeating patterns of behaviour that are hard to get out of. "It can become 'he doesn't listen, she doesn't listen'."

The good news is that not all divorce inquiries result in separation. Sometimes people do change their minds, sais Msl Roberts.

If couples are serious about trying to save their relationship, they need to think about what brought them together in the first place, said Ms Tingley. "And then they need to listen to each other and make time for each-other."

The impact of lockdown on relationships

Divorce inquiries in York in August were 29 per cent higher than in August a year ago, says Stowe Family Law. Nationally, they were up by 41 per cent.

In Yorkshire, the main reasons why couples experienced relationship problems during lockdown were given as:

  • Lack of personal space: 17.82 per cent
  • Mental health: 16.83 per cent
  • Financial difficulty: 16.83 per cent
  • Finding my partner irritating: 14.85 per cent
  • Working from home: 13.86 per cent
  • Sex: 12.87 per cent
  • Physical health: 11.88 per cent
  • Work stress: 11.88 per cent
  • General conflict / arguments: 10.89 per cent
  • Different views on lockdown rules: 9.90 per cent
  • Childcare / home schooling: 8.91 per cent