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Why did courts see heightened rates of divorces during COVID-19?

The solicitor and founder of Australia’s largest divorce legal service discussed why there was a hike in divorces during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

user iconJess Feyder 27 March 2023 Big Law
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Recent statistics revealed a sharp hike in divorces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Geoff Ebert, solicitor and founder of Your Divorce, the largest divorce legal service in Australia, consulted with over 5,000 people about why and in what ways COVID-19 impacted their divorce. 

The consultations found one in four respondents said that it was the determining or a major factor in applying for a divorce. The consultations also reaped interesting results as to why COVID-19 was such a large factor.


Many couples said it was the pressure of lockdown that crippled their relationship — a finding that was echoed by several family lawyers that Lawyers Weekly recently spoke with

However, the consultations revealed the pressure of COVID wasn’t the only reason for the increased numbers.  

Mr Ebert explained: “You need to be separated for 12 months to file for divorce, and we saw that some couples were separated for five, 10 or 15 years before filing.” 

The survey asked participants specifically about why they applied for divorce during COVID-19 and found that 20 per cent said the extra time afforded lockdowns was a factor, with nearly 40 per cent saying they wanted to take control of their lives in an uncertain time. 

For many people, it’s a draining and emotional thing that they put off, so the personal time afforded to them by the lockdowns presented an opportunity, Mr Ebert said. 

Some find it cathartic and took it as a step forward in their lives and regarded it as a way of controlling something in their lives, Mr Ebert noted. 

Some who had separated in 2018 or 2019, before COVID-19 happened, finally found the time to sort out their affairs, “they thought, ‘I’m sitting here for six weeks locked away in my house. I can’t control certain things in my life, at least I can control getting my divorce done’,” he explained. 

However, that’s not to downplay that COVID-19 played a large role in adding pressure to relationships and causing marriage breakdowns. 

“COVID exacerbated problems in relationships because of financial uncertainty and people being thrown back together for lengthy periods of time when they were teetering on the abyss of their relationship,” Mr Ebert explained. 

“Ten per cent of them said it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Another factor that led to more divorces being processed was that courts had more availability, noted Mr Ebert. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found 56,000 divorces were granted — which was a massive jump from the previous year, he said. 

There was increased efficiency of the courts due to online hearings, and for some reason, more hearing dates were available, he said.