Some relationships may have become stronger during the pandemic, but those aren’t the couples calling the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic.
Executive director Kathy Parsons said people initially called with concerns about eviction and unemployment when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“It’s sort of come in waves. Now, in the last little bit, it’s more the family-type things,” Parsons said.
“It’s pretty standard when there’s difficulties to see an increase in family law matters. COVID brings many of those vulnerabilities together at the same time.”
She said there have even been a few calls where one parent wants their children to strictly follow COVID-19 safety rules, and the other doesn’t.
Sometimes, couples will call because they resolved their issues, “but that’s not the majority of our calls, by any stretch of the imagination.”
She said recently, the clinic has experienced about a 20 per cent increase in divorce inquiries, but current restrictions to court access have limited how far cases can proceed.
“It’s kind of an odd situation, in that we do have a higher demand for that kind of service, but we’re really limited in what we can actually do about it.”
She said urgent matters that involve domestic violence are quicker to be heard by a judge, but files have piled up at the courthouse. An amicable divorce that may have taken six to nine months will now take a lot longer.
“Everything is kind of hanging in a limbo-type situation, because we just don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know when the courts are going to be operating more normally.
“People don’t know when they’re going to be going back to work, or getting more full-time work. There’s just so much uncertainty.”
She said many people may be holding off on divorce because they can’t afford to live independently. Those who started court proceedings prior to the pandemic may no longer be able to afford their lawyer, she added.
During this stressful time, couples could take a look at other options, like counselling or mediation, Parsons said.
“It’s a big step. Things will get better sooner or later, as far as the bigger picture, like the economy. But it’s not going to happen tomorrow. You’re probably better served to find a way to get along.”