Some lawyers in Saskatoon have seen more divorce cases since the pandemic, and have noticed added stressors that have put a strain on relationships.
“It’s feels like we are as busy as ever, if not busier, but certainly what we have heard from people is that the difficulties and the stressors that were connected to COVID have led people to this realization,” Charmaine Panko, collaborative lawyer and mediator with Panko Collaborative Law and Mediation.
A common theme for Panko’s clients was the added stress of living and working with a spouse, while dealing with unemployment or financial struggles. She said in some cases domestic violence was amplified.
“For some families where there were elements of family violence that were being managed by the escape of not being in the home — because you go to work. Suddenly, it was like a prison, and the reality of needing to find a permanent exit has bubbled to the surface,” Panko added.
While Statistics Canada does not show data from 2021-2023, its most recent data from 2020 shows the number of divorce cases are the lowest it’s been since 1973. The number recorded in 2020 was 42,933, a sharp decline from the previous year with 56,937 divorces recorded.
The report notes the public health restrictions of the pandemic played a factor in the lower number as court proceedings slowed.
“We did find there was a significant uptick in the summer of 2020, just due to lockdowns and such, it’s been fairly consistent for many years at this point,” Benjamin Rakochy, associate family law lawyer with Scharfstein.
As of July 2022, all Saskatchewan family court matters are required to attempt family dispute resolution — commonly referred to as mediation — before continuing with further court proceedings.
“As a family law lawyer, you kind of know the files that are going to potentially settle with mediation, then there’s ones where there’s no way and in that case, it’s kind of a waste because all it does is increase the costs for everybody,” Rakochy said.
He said through mediation some families have been able to settle within a couple months after separation.
“I’ve seen some mixed success with it. I’ve seen files where I thought there was no chance that we would have settled on an interim basis and after some significant mediation, we were able to deal with that,” he said.
Rakochy notes there are exemptions to the family dispute resolution process for unique circumstances.