There was a significant spike in couples seeking a divorce in the wake of the GFC – and now, Australian experts predict the coronavirus crisis will cause a similar heartbreaking trend.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 50,240 divorces granted in Australia in 2010, an increase of 792 compared to 2009.
Law firms have already noticed an influx of inquiries and Google searches for divorce lawyers and "legal separation" have also been steadily climbing in recent months as the stress of the global pandemic began to take its toll on relationships.
Courtney Mullen from Australian Family Lawyers told news.com.au it was "very likely" there would be a similar divorce increase in the wake of Covid-19.
She expects that tsunami to hit in mid-2021 as couples had to be separated for 12 months before filing for divorce.
"Financial stress and arguments over money can often be one of the main factors in divorce," Mullen said.
"The enormous number of job losses and the huge economic downturn will be putting many families into financial stress, some of which have never faced this kind of financial hardship, so it stands to reason more relationships will be impacted.
"We certainly saw a jump in inquiries about divorce and separation when the coronavirus crisis began, especially when lockdowns were in place across the country."
She said new file openings were up "almost 50 per cent in the second half of the financial year with "record new file openings" in May and June this year, which shows more people were "considering their options for the future".
"It really is a perfect storm for relationship struggles unfortunately when you combine financial stress and the pressure of lockdowns and social distancing on families," she said.
"During lockdown in particular we aren't able to access the support networks we usually do, like family and friends.
"People are also being forced into more constant close proximity which can highlight relationship problems."
She urged couples considering a split to firstly make a list of all shared property, assets and superannuation accounts to get an understanding of a potential settlement.
Next, its important to work out what you need to live on, take stock of your financial situation and set up a budget to better understand your expenditure.
It's also essential to remember there is a 12-month timeframe to finalise a property settlement from the date a divorce is made official, so procrastination is not an option.
Finally, she advised caution when it came to agreeing to things like child custody agreements before seeking legal advice.
Lynda McKie, a private wealth adviser at Elston Financial Solutions, also specialises in helping people negotiate divorce settlements.
She told news.com.au many clients considering divorce experienced a great deal of "fear and anxiety" about taking the first step, with many worrying about potential economic impacts.
"Particularly with women, we find there is a lot of fear that they are making a serious financial mistake during or after divorce and they often don't feel comfortable making financial decisions around long-term wealth," McKie said.
"They tend not to have the confidence to negotiate, so what we do is try to lift some knowledge in financial areas so they have a much better understanding of what things will look like for them and their kids post-divorce."
McKie said another factor holding people back was anxiety over the divorce process itself, with many convinced it would end in a nasty court battle.
"Culturally we tend to romanticise marriage and demonise divorce and there's that Hollywood reputation of divorce as being ugly and ending up in a lot of litigation," she said.
"They think it's going to be awful and we know when people are hurt, sad and angry their behaviour can be unhelpful, but actually there is more than one way to resolve it."
McKie said the "vast majority" of couples settled out of court and that there were actually five ways to negotiate a divorce, including resolving it yourselves, having a lawyer-based negotiation, mediation and the stereotypical "litigation model" if all else fails.
The final option, which many are unaware of, is a collaborative alternative resolution process where parties decide not to use the threat of litigation, instead engaging professionals such as "collaboratively-trained lawyers", divorce coaches and financial planners to help them look after their interests.
She said this option was often preferred by those determined to put their children "at the front of things" and to divorce in a "healthy" way.
McKie urged those considering divorce to seek good advice and help and to boost their financial knowledge.