2020 will be remembered for one thing – Covid-19.
There’s no doubt that this year has been difficult for many people for many different reasons – be it from work, family, or financial perspective.
For some couples, Covid-19 and its impact may have had unforeseen consequences on a relationship. Here we look at some of these via the lens of family law.
Couples that had plans for the spring/summer of 2020 to host their ‘big day’ for either a wedding or civil ceremony will have found themselves in the predicament of not being able to go ahead with their plans. Although wedding celebrations for numbers of up to 30 can now go ahead, the majority of couples will most likely by now have already made plans to postpone their celebrations until a later date in 2021 or beyond.
Not only is this likely to have been a big disappointment for all involved, but for couples living together, delaying the formalisation of their relationship in the eyes of the law means an extended period of cohabitation. Unfortunately, there is no legal protection for cohabiting couples, either in the event of any unforeseen circumstances occurring or if separation takes place. If lockdown has caused you to have to postpone your wedding for a prolonged period, it may be worth considering having a Cohabitation Agreement drawn up to protect you in the interim period. A Cohabitation Agreement can be tailored to meet your exact needs but generally allows you to set out who owns what and in what proportion, usually covering elements such as ownership of property, payment of bills, liability for debts and what would happen in the event of a separation.
Bringing forward cohabitation plans
One of the consequences of lockdown that has perhaps been overlooked is couples choosing to bring forward their plans to cohabit. Couples that were not living together prior to lockdown may have taken the decision to join households so they could continue to see each other without breaking the law. Whilst some couples may now have returned to their separate living arrangements, others may have decided that it makes sense to continue living together now that the plunge has already been taken.
Again, where couples are cohabiting and plan to do so going forward, it may be an idea to consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement.
Being cooped up in the house for months on end whilst potentially having to manage the commitments of work or childcare may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for some couples. It was widely reported that there was a spike in the number of couples beginning divorce proceedings following lockdown in China, and a similar pattern is starting to emerge in the UK.
If lockdown has resulted in a breakdown of your relationship, it is important to seek advice at an early stage, preferably prior to making any firm decisions or taking definitive action.
If your relationship has been affected by lockdown and you would like to clarify your position with an experienced family lawyer, please get in touch. Our team are able to offer straight-talking advice that will allow you to make plans to move forward, whatever your concern or current circumstances.
Anthony Jones is head of Family Law at O’Donnell Solicitors and can be contacted on 01456 761320 or 07444582804 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
O’Donnell Solicitors are offering virtual consultations by phone or video call and are also seeing clients at a safe social distance by appointment in our Covid-secure offices.