Search volumes for terms like “divorce attorney near me” spiked to an all-time high at the end of 2020, but is the pandemic increasing divorce rates?
Nearly a year after the first recorded case of COVID-19 in the U.S., the global pandemic continues to interfere with the day to day lives of many. In particular, the virus has posed some unprecedented challenges for spousal and cohabitation relationships. While initial evidence suggested otherwise, more recent analyses point to a surge in divorce rates during the pandemic. Expect a tidal wave of divorces on the horizon!
One survey conducted in April found that 31% of respondents believed quarantine had harmed their romantic relationship. In support of this finding, Legal Template—a legal contract creation site—saw a 34% increase in the sales of its divorce agreement form. A whopping 20% of which were from those married within the past year. Similarly, DivorceMag.com noticed a 90% increase in their web traffic between March and August of 2020 totaling 2.8 million visits. Many divorce professionals are reporting a spike in clients considering a divorce since the lockdown.
This surge in divorce has not only been observed in the U.S. but also in other countries. Relationship Australia reported that 42% of their survey respondents were facing profound marital problems with their partners. Wuhan, the province where the virus first erupted, saw its divorce application rate double after relaxing its lockdown policies. So not surprisingly, COVID-19 has impacted divorce rates globally and is projected to continue in 2021.
So why are so many marriages on the line during the COVID crisis?
Lockdowns have forced couples to spend prolonged hours together, engaging in ways that differ from their regular routine. With reduced personal space and increased physical interaction, they are often forced to confront issues that were once avoidable—from something as simple as household chores to the division of childcare. As a result, individuals are taking a harder look at their partners and occasionally go as far as to re-evaluate their marriage.
Moreover, the vast majority of the world is in what is known as the ‘disillusionment phase’ of the Six Phases of Disaster. This is the period in which “optimism turns into discouragement, stress heightens, and negative reactions occur,” as described by Legal Template. The pandemic has altered the rhythms of life, elevating levels of stress and anxiety. Financial strain, illness or the death of a loved one, and loss of socialization are just some of the many issues we’re all struggling to cope with today. And when stressors like these build up and manifest as anger, it ultimately affects those around us.
Many professionals in the divorce ecosystem anticipate divorce rates to soar once the COVID curve flattens. More and more couples will face lasting psychological and financial burdens, which increase the likelihood of relationship strife. Lawyers are also expecting to see a rise in divorce inquiries as courts resume normal operations.
How best to cope with pandemic-triggered marital problems?
During these unprecedented times, it is extremely important for couples to build and maintain a strong support system. Couples need to acknowledge each other’s challenges and should work together to resolve any arising issues. A recent SELF Magazine article suggests 8 tips to nurture a healthy relationship during the pandemic:
- Communicate. Share your emotions and let yourself be listened to. This will bring about a sense of safety in the relationship.
- Set new boundaries. Revisit your household rules and make adjustments to avoid new disputes.
- Stay in the present. When expressing relationship concerns, do not bring up the past and make the problem seem greater than it really is.
- Find a “normal” rhythm. Create new habits that will allow you to de-stress and take time off. Explore new activities that can be done with your spouse or partner, such as movie nights and backyard camping.
- Create your own space. As important as it is to connect with your partner, make sure to have room for yourself and reflect on your emotions periodically.
- Seek outside help. Talk to professionals and marriage counselors if necessary. Many are currently offering video appointments.
Although COVID-19 and the increase in divorce won’t be going away anytime soon, remember that you’re not alone in what you’re experiencing. Don’t forget about other resources that can also help such as your company’s employee assistance program (EAP). Many times, you can even access free advice from a divorce lawyer through such programs. And if you are already divorced and experiencing difficulties co-parenting during the pandemic, have a read of our previous post Tips for Co-parenting During COVID-19.