Ask The Solicitor: Hill & Company’s Dan Knox on divorce in a pandemic

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We’ve partnered with Altrincham law firm Hill & Company to bring you a regular Q&A feature where we’ll tap into the insight from one of their trusted legal advisors.

This week we spoke to Dan Knox, Family Law Solicitor, about divorce and the pandemic. 

ALTRINCHAM TODAY: So has the Covid-19 pandemic led to more marriages breaking up? 

DAN KNOX: The year 2020 has been tough for us all. Added pressure that has come with increased employment worries, health concerns regarding Covid-19, and more time being spent at home due to enforced lockdowns.

This will have inevitably caused added relationship stress and subsequently the breakdown of some relationships and marriages. People’s relationships don’t necessarily break down because of the pandemic.

But people with pre-existing problems have seen the pandemic highlighting fissures. Catastrophic events have a way of putting the microscope on the good and the bad in all of us, with marriages and relationships not being exempt from that focus. This is especially true with the pandemic world we are currently living in.

Irene Seaman, Hill & Company’s first female Senior Partner in its 170-year-plus history

AT: We hear about ‘Divorce day’ in the press… is this actually a thing and has this year been different anyway because of the pandemic? 

DK: To label a day ‘Divorce Day’ is misleading really. It conjures up an image of the phone constantly ringing and emails pinging into the inbox on one particular day of the year, but this doesn’t happen. Traditionally there is normally an increase in enquiries relating to relationship breakdown after the Christmas and New Year period, but this does not occur on one specific day. 

I consider that the psychology of the New Year is often central to why people avoid divorcing pre-Christmas, and why family solicitors see an increase in enquiries at this time of year. Traditionally a time for resolutions and new beginnings, separation and a fresh start can form part of this narrative, and often people will have thought about divorce long before they pick up the phone to their solicitor. 

The pandemic has put an enormous strain on relationships and has exacerbated marriage problems. Law firms experienced a peak in enquiries after the initial lockdown, and we will have to see if a similar trend emerges as a result of the current lockdown period. 

AT: So is divorce quicker and easier at this time of year or will it move slower as a result of the pandemic? 

DK: Divorce is tough, whichever time of year it occurs. Couples will need to make hard decisions, but it can also be the solution both parties need, especially when there are children to consider. With the right legal advice and guidance, there are often positive outcomes. It can become a time for new beginnings and a sense of positivity. 

There is no such thing as a quickie divorce, but one thing that has changed as a result of the pandemic is solicitors are submitting applications online. Using the online divorce system, we have been submitting applications for decree absolutes (the final stage of a divorce) and receiving responses the same day.

AT: What is your approach with clients who contact you? 

DK: Every case is different and should be treated that way. What is right for one person, may not be right for the other. Everyone who needs to consult with us about divorce in January will have their own reasons and their own insecurities about the process. What is important is that people know that when a relationship is no longer working, there are options. They should know that they will be able to move forward quickly with the right legal advice. Times can be hard but they can also change quickly. We pride ourselves here at Hill and Company on being able to facilitate our clients being able to move on with their lives.  

The trusted legal advisors within our firm are available to discuss sensitively and compassionately any difficult situation a person has found themselves in, which may have undoubtedly been magnified over the Christmas break. But we pride ourselves on being here as a central part of our local community and remain committed to providing a compassionate service to our clients throughout each day of the year, and not just on what has been coined as ‘Divorce Day’.

Dan Knox, a family solicitor and trusted legal advisor who has recently joined Hill & Company, is available to assist clients new and old in all aspects of family law. If you are facing any family law issues and would like to ask him a question, please contact him on 0161 928 3201 or email d.knox@hillandcompany.co.uk

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