Psychologists, sociologists, and family law professionals are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on marriages. While some theorists originally embraced the idea that the pandemic would result in stronger bonds and a baby boom, current predictions are much more bleak. Below is a look at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on America’s divorce rate and four steps you can take if you are pondering separation or divorce.

What do early statistics on the divorce rate suggest?

Early statistics on the divorce rate in America are unremarkable, with some experts even reporting declines in the divorce rate. However, all early statistics should be interpreted with caution due to the following factors:

  • Shelter in place restrictions deter some Americans for seeking legal representation or pursuing a divorce
  • Financial strain makes it difficult for some Americans to afford to pay for a divorce
  • Illness and health problems prevent some Americans from pursuing divorces

In addition to these factors, it is important to note that domestic violence calls have increased in some areas. This is not a surprise to many mental health professionals, who know that many domestic abuse victims have limited means of escaping their abusers while abiding by shelter-in-place laws:

“For victims and survivors of domestic violence, including children exposed to it, being home may not be a safe option — and the unprecedented stress of the pandemic could breed unsafety in homes where violence may not have been an issue…Before the pandemic, a survivor or victim could flee a violent situation by staying with a family member, going to a shelter or filing a protective order with the police.”

Ashley Abramson, American Psychological Association (APA) 

Why do researchers expect divorce rates to rise after the pandemic?

In spite of the lack of early statistics or hard data on the divorce rate during COVID-19, researchers across the globe are now expecting an increase in divorce rates due to the coronavirus. While some experts cite examples of couples who decide to make a concerted effort to improve their marriages during COVID-19, most researchers predict a spike in the divorce rate as Americans begin to emerge from their homes. There are several factors contributing to this prediction, including the following:

1) Close quarters are pushing strained marriages to the brink

“I’m inclined to believe we will see an uptick in divorces resulting from the stress of being confined with our spouses with whom we are not accustomed to spending so much one-on-one time. The lack of freedom and day-to-day struggles, coupled with the emotional and financial fallout, will probably take their toll on marriages.” – Susan Newman, Ph.D., Social Psychologist and Author

Quarantines, shelter-in-place measures, and “Stay healthy at home” procedures are causing insurmountable problems for couples whose marriages were already on the rocks. Before the pandemic hit, it was easy for spouses to “get away” from each other. But the emergence of COVID-19 has limited Americans’ ability to escape from their spouses with a shopping excursion, trip to the gym, or a solo meal at the diner down the street.

Many theorists predict that mandatory time in lockdown will be a nail in the coffin for the marriages of men and women who were already considering divorce before the COVID-19 outbreak. And many spouses who were engaged in extramarital affairs prior to the pandemic will be forced to come clean about their infidelity, thereby contributing further to the divorce rate.

2) Divorce rates in China are spiking

COVID-19 hit China months before it began wreaking havoc on Americans. As Chinese married couples began to emerge from quarantine, divorce lawyers in China noticed that the number of divorces was rising so rapidly that some employees were completely overwhelmed by filings.

While exact figures vary from city to city, some family lawyers in China are reporting increases of 25% in the number of divorces. One city government website stated, “It takes 40 minutes to one hour to complete a divorce procedure, and sometimes staff members don’t even have time to drink water.” Many researchers expect similar increases to occur in America once couples begin to emerge from quarantine.

3) Financial stress contributes to a higher divorce rate

Roughly 9 out of 10 Americans report that COVID-19 has caused financial strain. The combination of financial stress and existing relationship troubles is a recipe for disaster for many married couples. With roughly 9 out of 10 Americans report that COVID-19 has caused financial strain, many divorce lawyers are already preparing for an anticipated surge in divorce filings.

So where are we now?

As predicted at the beginning of the year, divorce and domestic violence rates in the United State have spiked since the emergence of COVID-19. The number of couples seeking divorce was up 34% from March through June compared to 2019, most of which contribute their divorce to the lockdown causing irreparable damage to their relationship. Newlyweds seem to have been struck the hardest. Compared to 2019, 16% more couples pursued divorce after only 5 years of marriage or less, and couples that were married for 5 months or less pursued divorce at double the rate of 2019.

Although non-exhaustive, therer is a list of factors that have contributed to the growing number of divorce filings:

  • Quarantine and “stay-at-home” orders
  • Wavering financial situations
  • Unemployment rates
  • Illnesses and deaths of loved ones
  • Mental illness
  • Child care

In fact, it is quite possible that divorce rates will continue to rise as economic, financial, social, insitiutional, and psychological effects from COVID-19 continue to unfold.

What should you do today if you are considering separation or divorce?

If you have thought about separation or divorce during the COVID pandemic, you are not alone. The stress of the pandemic, combined with financial challenges and increasingly close confines with your spouse is enough to strain even the healthiest of marriages. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by relationship troubles, here are four simple steps you can take to regain control of your life and choose the best path moving forward:

  • Step One: If you are being abused by your spouse, seek help right away. Call 911 if you are in danger or call a trusted family lawyer for help.
  • Step Two: If you love your spouse and would like to salvage your relationship, reach out to an experienced family therapist for guidance.
  • Step Three: If your efforts to save your relationship fail, or if you would like to move forward with a divorce, contact an experienced family lawyer.
  • Step Four: Take care of your physical and mental health. Do not delay seeking medical care if you have an emergency or serious health problem.

By following these four steps, you will be able to put your best foot forward and live a happier, healthier life. To discover why residents across Las Vegas turn to us for legal guidance, we invite you to contact us at Willick Law Group to schedule a complimentary consultation. We look forward to serving as your trusted legal representative.

Marshal S. Willick