The 2020 school summer holiday is proving to be a genuine exception to the norm for family dispute specialists, says a family mediation charity.
The six week break is traditionally a time when family mediation professionals experience a slight lull in workload, says Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation. She says the holiday usually allows family mediators to re-gird their loins before an upsurge comes again in September, when the schools return.
“That has traditionally been the pattern for our mediators,” she says. “We have found that the long break from school has been a final straw for many relationships, triggering more clients approaching us as divorce or separation looms.”
This year looks very different, she explains.
Writing in Family Law, Jane Robey says: “The demand for family mediation appointments, which sank on lockdown but has crept up and then rocketed since May, shows no sign of abating.
“And my feeling is that even though for months the country hasn’t had ‘normal’ schooling routines, this six-week break will add extra pressures on hard-pressed families, many already facing mounting financial challenges.”
She cites the experience of China, where easing of pandemic measures was followed by an increase in divorce applications. A similar pattern has been reported from Australia.
“This seems likely to happen here” she adds, “and I suspect it may begin to show even sooner than in the ‘traditional’ month of September.
“People have been delaying taking life-changing choices but now, with restrictions easing, our experience tells us they are finding it harder to kick those extremely difficult decisions into the long grass.
“Lockdown meant people felt there was little they could do to significantly influence their own lives – try to move house, or look to change job, for example.
“But now as restrictions ease there seem to be fewer ways to put these things off, and that includes divorce.
“Across the country many unhappy couples are blowing the dust off a separation process they suspended earlier in the year.”