Coronavirus wreaks havoc on Australian couples as more couples consider divorce

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The coronavirus crisis has taken its toll on marriages as couples seek to separate after being locked together during the lockdown.

Divorce claims have more than doubled since COVID-19 hit Australia, according to the national divorce, information and mediation group, The Separation Guide.

The numbers are particularly dire for couples in the nation’s coronavirus capital, Victoria, who account for 40% of that increase.

Financial pressure, job loss and mental health issues are some of the main triggers for relationship breakdowns during the COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus crisis destroys marriages as couples seek separation after being locked together during lockdown

Relationship breakups are particularly serious for couples in Victoria, the nation's coronavirus capital (pictured of a couple sitting in front of the Melbourne skyline), who account for 40% of this increase in divorce claims

Relationship breakups are particularly serious for couples in the coronavirus nation’s capital Victoria (pictured of couple sitting in front of Melbourne’s skyline) who account for 40% of this increase in divorce claims

Reid Family Lawyers chief executive Fiona Reid said the crisis had caused chaos for couples who couldn’t escape their homes despite the tension.

“Family homes are being turned into battlegrounds by COVID-19,” Ms. Reid told the Australian Financial Review.

The lockdown has forced couples to stay under one roof despite losing love due to financial stress and directives to stay home.

Some couples have been forced to sleep in grandma’s cabins and apartments, or on the couch with friends or families to overcome relationship breakdowns.

A couple, from North Sydney, have separated after 15 years together but continue to live in the same house for fear of financial hardship.

While COVID-19 has strengthened some relationships, it has broken others (pictured: pair hold hands as they cross Sydney's CBD during the pandemic)

While COVID-19 has strengthened some relationships, it has shattered others (pictured: pair hold hands as they cross Sydney’s CBD during the pandemic)

The lockdown has forced couples to stay under one roof despite losing love due to financial stress and directives to stay at home (pictured: a man and woman take shelter under an umbrella in the rain in Melbourne)

The lockdown has forced couples to stay under one roof despite losing love due to financial stress and directives to stay at home (Photo: A man and woman take shelter under an umbrella in the rain in Melbourne)

The couple chose to sleep in separate rooms and restrict communication rather than selling their family home at a loss – which is their greatest financial asset.

“Both spouses will not – or be able to – go out due to the isolation restrictions. From what is already a difficult time, the separations are becoming even more stressful and unpleasant for both parties, ”Ms. Reid said.

In addition to the numbers from the Separation Guide, monthly divorce inquiries also doubled at Ms Reid’s law firm, which specializes in divorce settlements.

Despite relationship breakdowns, fear of financial devastation prompts many couples to avoid the formal route of divorce.

Indeed, any disagreement can carry the burden of a $ 100,000 visit to family court as couples fight over property or child rearing arrangements.

Divorce fees also tend to cost between several hundred dollars and tens of thousands depending on the assets involved.

But divorce specialists say the DIY method can lead to serious legal ramifications and tax traps.

COVID-19 puts increased strain on relationships as couples battle financial pressure, job loss and mental health issues (Photo: Couple walk hand-in-hand through Melbourne's CBD wearing masks facial)

COVID-19 puts increased strain on relationships as couples struggle with financial pressure, job loss and mental health issues (Photo: Couple walk hand-in-hand through Melbourne’s CBD wearing face masks )

Even if a couple verbally agrees that an occupant remains in the family home, without any formal change in titles, both occupants are legally allowed to stay.

“If there is no violated court order, crime or safety issue, even the police cannot force the removal of an occupant,” Reid said.

Instead, couples who have fallen in love are urged to try and negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

H&R Block communications director Mark Champman said decisions about assets and debt, financial contributions and child custody should be formalized through court orders.

This would avoid possible fluctuations at tax time, including around capital gains tax.

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