Canadian Lawyer

June 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 23 of 35

22 WHEN THE coronavirus pandemic spread around the world more than a year ago, it caused a shift in how all lawyers work, but perhaps most dramatically in family law. Family courts moved to virtual hearings, there were fights among divorced couples over child custody and in-person schooling during lock- downs and there was an increase in separa- tions and divorces among struggling couples. And, say family law practitioners, the long- term effects of the pandemic — both good and bad — will be seen for a while to come. COVID-19 and its many restrictions have been stressful for everyone, "and without the resources and outlets people normally have" in their daily lives, it has taken a particular COVID-19 has sparked novel custody disputes and court procedures and forced family lawyers to work with clients remotely, writes Elizabeth Raymer Pandemic creates great waves in family law toll on mental health, says Manraj Grewal, an Ottawa family lawyer in solo practice. Since marriages can succumb to personal pressures, "definitely the pandemic will cause a ripple effect in terms of marriages ending," he says, and especially with severe economic pressures placed on a family through job loss. Separations and divorces have jumped more than 34 per cent in the United States by some estimates, says Russell Alexander of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers in the Greater Toronto Area. That may be due to a bottleneck of cases from when the courts slowed down immediately following the pandemic outbreak in spring 2020. Still, as the pandemic wears on, all LEGAL REPORT FAMILY LAW the stressors that might typically occur in a marriage are amplified as people work from home or have lost jobs, homeschool their chil- dren and develop "cabin fever," he says. "The pandemic, unfortunately, is changing a lot of relationships," says Alexander, adding that his firm's business increased at least 30 per cent in the first year of the pandemic. On the flip side, the pandemic has rein- forced many marital relationships, says Anne-France Goldwater, senior partner in Goldwater, Dubé family law firm in Montreal. The last generation that experienced great marital stability was the one that lived through the Second World War, she says. "When you live through adversity like that, that keeps you

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