By NEIL HARTNELL and
PROMINENT attorneys yesterday revealed “a tremendous increase” in divorce cases coming before them following the end of the first COVID-19 nationwide lockdown.
Branville McCartney, the Halsbury Chambers principal, branded the spike in divorce matters as “unfortunate” even though such cases were usually not a major fee earner for the Bahamian legal profession.
“I don’t know if it’s because of the lockdown, but I must say that divorces have been up, although that’s not a big legal-type fee unless it’s contested and the persons are people of means,” he told The Tribune.
“We have seen that aspect, divorces, have unfortunately increased in The Bahamas. For many, many years the divorce rate was one out of every two marriages ended in divorce, but from the first lockdown we saw a tremendous increase in divorce matters.”
Wayne Munroe, QC, confirmed he had seen similar trends to Mr McCartney, adding: “A lot of people have called asking. I’ve seen a lot of people calling and asking about divorce.
“The main thing is what are the justifications for divorce? We’re generally seeing people come up with grounds that are mental cruelty, getting into rows with their spouse. It’s something else, but it is foreseeable.
“I tell people that one of the quickest ways to get divorced is to spend too much time with your spouse. The little things that annoy you, you cannot get a break from it. It’s a phenomenon you’re going to see a lot more.”
The first COVID-19 lockdown, and its stay-at-home restrictions, will likely have further increased the pressures on already-troubled marriages and relationships as the two sides will have been unable to get a break from each other.
A well-known religious leader has urged troubled married couples to make peace with the past and seek video counselling to prevent separation.
Rev Angela Palacious, a priest in the Anglican Diocese, said couples who find themselves in trouble during the lockdowns, should use the time for self-reflection.
This as some lawyers have told The Tribune that divorce cases are on the rise amid COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
“So I would say that it is a good time to write a letter to yourself and look at what the areas are that makes it a challenge to live with you,” Rev Palacious said. “People should do some kind of self-examination, to say what are the complaints that they have heard over the years that they really did not pay attention to and probably now highlighted in this time together.
“To do some kind of self-reflection is helpful. This is also a time to apologise and ask forgiveness and offer forgiveness. In terms of one’s relationship, you have to do the same kind of self-examination. So rather than the other person having to accuse you, you should begin to look at yourself and let this be a time for self-development, growth and change. Ask yourself, ‘where can I be a better friend or spouse’ and do that kind of honest self-evaluation. I think that’s a good place to start because we have more time.”
Rev Palacious said she, too has heard about an increase of failed marriages, a lot of marriages since the COVID-19 pandemic but, she says at the same time, some couples are rediscovering their love while being locked down together.
“Let’s begin with making peace with the past,” she continued. “I’ve been hearing about marriage separations and I’ve also been hearing about those who rediscovered the joy of being married and friendship because they finally had time for one another. So it can go both ways depending on the foundation, I guess. If they have any kind of spiritual foundation it’s even better. I read something that said, ‘If people read their Bibles four times a week, there would be considerable change in terms of divorce and addiction’.
“It’s like you begin to nurture yourself spiritually and you begin to become more accountable. So that kind of spiritual discipline would be helpful. In terms of anger management and conflict resolution, this is a good time for people to go online and look at some of the articles there are on managing your own temper and dealing with conflict and listening skills and also to learn how to be a better communicator.”
Rev Palacious, who is also a counselor, said these times also serve as a good opportunity for couples to do the things that they enjoy together like a Motown night, a Classical music night or a Jazz night.
“They should begin to explore new things,” she said. “Look for movies that the two of them would enjoy watching together and have a date night every three nights. They can cook together and plan meals together. The challenge is to what degree do they believe they can change and not just change the other person. And, to what degree can we find a blessing in the midst of all of this.
“What is the blessing? We have more time, but we have less money, however it may remind you of the beginning of your relationship when you were younger and you didn’t have as much money. And, how to look at the things that you did then that were enjoyable. I think couples should make an effort not to get on each other’s nerves.”
Rev Palacious advised couples to decide what they want to have in a relationship when the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are over. And, she said they should be willing to invest in the relationship, get counseling on the phone and receive the help they need.