With many couples shut in and spending more time than ever with their significant others during COVID-19 lockdowns, some divorce lawyers said they’re seeing a pandemic surge in demand.

Ron Shulman, founder and managing partner of Shulman & Partners LLP, explained that the combination of a work-from-home lifestyle and limited social gatherings have weighed on relationships, prompting a rise in divorce inquiries.

“At our offices, we’ve never been as busy as we are right now. In 2020, we saw an increase of inquiries by around 40 per cent some months, compared with previous years,” the family lawyer said in an interview.

In 2020, there were 14,068 new applications received under the Divorce Act by the Superior Court of Justice, according to the Ministry of the Attorney General. That’s up from 11,458 applications in 2019.

Shulman said his firm saw two main trends with divorce disputes during the pandemic: income instability concerns and a set date of separation.

“Clients are asking questions like ‘What do I do if I lose my job? Or if I make less income?’ We are also getting questions from people who have not experienced a job disruption yet and are worried that something might happen since it could impact their ability to pay alimony or child support,” Shulman explained.

However, he said the main disagreement among partners at this time is the date of separation, which would determine an asset’s value in divorce proceedings.

“Financial considerations are taking center stage right now since there’s a fluctuation of assets, like housing and stock portfolios,” Shulman said. “Many individuals are concerned about the exact date of separation since an asset may be worth a whole lot more today than it was two months ago.”

Despite the renewed demand for divorce amid the pandemic, Shulman doesn’t expect that these dispute trends will be permanent.

“I think that at some point, the surge of divorce will start stabilizing. But most likely, it will only be after the pandemic,” Shulman said.

“As long as we have an unpredictable market, couples will continue to have more disagreements over asset value and income. A lot of these concerns are tied to COVID uncertainty so once the market settles, so will these disputes.”