Back in March 2020, when most of us began spending much more time at home with family, many people lightheartedly speculated that divorces would increase due to the forced time together. According to a recent article from CBC News, this speculation appears to have become an unfortunate reality, although the reasons behind it may be more nuanced than just an unprecedented increase in family time. In addition, the pandemic has also seen a sharp downturn in birth rates and marriages over the past year, although the reasons behind this may be at least partially attributed to logistics due to pandemic protocols.

Rise in Separations & Cohabitation Across Canada

According to the CBC article, anecdotal evidence shows that divorce and separation inquires are up around 20% over the same period the year before. In addition, there has also been an increase in requests for cohabitation and marriage agreements. Interestingly, the main cause for both increases may be due to finances more than anything.

With many people out of work or earning less than before due to rotating layoffs or reduced hours, some are looking to share expenses by advancing their relationships. In situations where a couple previously lived separately, it might make financial sense to cohabitate, enabling both parties to share costs related to housing and utilities. In addition, couples who have been separated by distance and unable to see each other due to travel restrictions or health protocols may be looking to cohabitate to eliminate those roadblocks.

For those who are working, many have transitioned to working from home over the past year. This has created a new reality in which people are no longer required to live close to work since commuting isn’t a factor anymore. The freedom to relocate has seen many people moving away from major cities, and for couples who were previously kept apart by work, perhaps it has removed this barrier as well.

Money may also be playing a large role in the rise in divorce and separations. As speculated in the article, divorces and separations tend to increase when people are under financial strain. If nothing else, this past year has put many individuals and businesses under unprecedented strain from a financial standpoint. The additional stress this can cause has likely been the biggest factor in relationship breakdowns.

Fewer Births and Marriages

Along with the increase in divorces and separations, there has also been a decrease in births and marriages. There are several possible explanations for this as well.

  1. Financial reasons: as mentioned above, many families are under increased strain financially, and so they may have decided to postpone major life decisions such as pregnancy or marriage. Weddings are often very expensive, and so some may prefer to wait until their finances are more stable. The decision to have children is also made more difficult when money is tight, and so families may be opting to wait for this step in their family planning as well.
  2. Logistical reasons: Many people who had planned on getting married in 2020 have opted to postpone simply due to health protocols. With gatherings strictly limited, it has not been an ideal time to host a wedding, to say the least. With respect to births, while the pandemic has not affected the ability to deliver a baby necessarily, many non-emergency medical procedures have been delayed. According to the CBC, this has had an effect on treatments such as IVF.
  3. Gender inequality: The pandemic has hit women especially hard, with the majority of job cuts affecting women. Further, in situations where school closures have required a parent to spend more time at home with the children, it has been mothers more than fathers who have opted to step back from work or take on additional responsibilities at home, meaning they may be unwilling to grow their families at this time. Taken together, these issues may also be contributing to decisions to hold off on taking new steps towards marriage or growing a family.

The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman are exceptionally experienced with respect to divorce and separation matters, as well as the preparation or review of cohabitation and marriage agreements. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contact us online.

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