Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 2 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Stay-home measures heaping pressure on marriages, experts say

Divorce lawyers and marriage counsellors said some couples are struggling to cope with increasing demands

Being forced to stay at home is taking a toll on couples. Getty Images
Being forced to stay at home is taking a toll on couples. Getty Images

Stay-home measures imposed to combat Covid-19 have put couples to the test and exposed "cracks" in marriages, experts said.

Restrictions on movement enforced in recent months have heaped extra pressure on the family unit, with many people now working from home and children also studying remotely.

One of Dubai’s leading divorce solicitors said he was at least three times as busy as usual since safety regulations were introduced, while marriage counsellors have told of a boom in business.

Not being able to spend even a few moments apart from a spouse was at the top of the list of complaints from quarrelling couples.

“As a firm we would normally get about five to 10 cases a week,” said Byron James, partner at Expatriate Law.

“I would say it’s about three times that since coronavirus started.”

There is nothing at the minute to take your mind off life at home

Byron James

Mr James said that not all the cases end up in court as many are resolved before then or clients simply cannot afford the cost.

Other issues include people having reduced incomes, or losing employment altogether, which leads to arguments between married couples, according to a marriage counsellor in Dubai.

“People often bury their heads in the sand if their marriage is unstable or has cracks in it,” said Anne Jackson, relationship counsellor with One Life Coaching.

“You can’t do that when both parties are constantly in the same space and problems like someone losing a job, or taking a pay cut, put more pressure on them and they can take it out on each other.”

She also said children being taught remotely from home was another bone of contention between warring couples.

“A lot of people are not trained to properly home school their children and this can lead to further frustrations,” she said.

“There are global studies which show women are suffering more than men though as they take on more of the responsibility when it comes to teaching children from home.”

Having to put future plans on hold has also added to the tensions between husband and wife, according to another marriage counsellor in Dubai.

“Being forced to stop future plans can create frustration, especially if those plans involved school care or moving house,” said Lama Younis, from the Hissah Enrichment Centre.

“A fear of the unknown develops and escalates until it becomes a bigger issue.”

She said couples not being able to meet counsellors in person has also created problems.

“It’s challenging to do online sessions when many parents have children in the next room,” she said.

“It often means they are not focused due to background noise.”

However, it has not all been depressing news for couples struggling with problems during the coronavirus crisis.

In Abu Dhabi, legal counsellors said the number of disputes has dropped, with more couples reconciling rather than splitting.

“There has been a noticeable decrease in the number of family disputes that were received by the Family Guidance Division during the current period,” said a representative for the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD).

The representative said the stay at home orders have “contributed to containing disputes and restoring family members’ rapprochement”.

In April, 702 family consultations were provided by the department remotely.

Emad Kbar, who works for Mohamed Alzaabi Advocates and Legal Consultants, said they have also witnessed “a noticeable drop” in divorce cases.

“As a law firm, we used to receive more than 10 cases a month including divorce, custody and alimonies,” he said.

“During lockdown we have been receiving between two to four cases max; and most of those cases were related to post-divorce allowances.”

He said the reason is that family members have become accustomed to the idea of “permanent existence with one another which has reflected positively on marital relations”.

Updated: June 7, 2020 03:14 PM

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