The sharp increase in clients seeking divorce at the beginning of the pandemic shows that COVID-19 and the necessary response to contain the virus played a role.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of life in the United States since March 2020. The most noticeable changes resulting from the pandemic are protective health measures and economic consequences. While waves of layoffs and poor earnings in certain industries are in the news, COVID-19 is having a less discussed but equally significant impact on family relationships, particularly between married couples.
More couples want to get divorced
Data shows that the number of couples seeking divorce increased between March and June, the first few months of COVID-19-related lockdowns in the US. Legal Templates company, which sells various legal form documents, recorded a 34% increase in sales between March and June 2020 over divorce contract sales for the same period in 2019. Some divorce lawyers on the network, like Vantage Group Legal, also saw an increase in phone calls from potential customers Customers Filing for Divorce.
According to Legal Templates, the number of couples seeking divorce peaked within 2 to 3 weeks after the closure began. Couples who normally spent their days in separate offices or with one spouse in the office and the other spouse at home were now together 24 hours a day. This closeness has the potential to exacerbate existing problems in a marriage. Couples who quarrel frequently now have no time to cool off or think about the source of conflict. In addition, COVID-19 introduced a myriad of new stressors, such as: B. Home school children, financial burdens and concern for the health of relatives. While financial difficulties can exacerbate conflict and help drive some couples apart, keeping some couples together can also work. Divorce is expensive. Legal fees start at around $ 100 per hour. With some large companies still announcing major layoffs months after the initial shutdowns, people feel unsafe in their finances. This uncertainty is likely to lead couples to suspend divorce proceedings whenever possible.
In addition, the practicalities of divorce, such as moving out and meeting lawyers to draft a divorce agreement, were difficult or impossible to deal with at the height of the pandemic. During the initial response to the pandemic, many companies closed completely for a while. That being said, the thought of taking the risk of contracting the virus by not just leaving the house, but moving around permanently among shelters made divorce ruled out for many.
COVID-19 More Burdens on Marriage
There is significant evidence that most couples who divorced in the past six months had problems before the pandemic. According to relationship coach Lee Wilson, couples who are struggling don't have positive interactions with one another. During the height of the COVID-19 response, with many people working from home or being laid off, there was potential for even more interactions between spouses without increasing positive interactions. Married people could no longer part. In addition, activities that each member of the couple once relied on to relieve stress were included, such as: B. going to the gym or getting in touch with friends is no longer possible.
Individuals wearing masks during the coronavirus outbreak; Image via Pixabay. Public domain.
As stress built up and negative interactions increased, many couples found that they couldn't get the marriage to work. Others realized they didn't want to get it to work. It is possible that the crisis situation that the COVID-10 pandemic represents has made it clear to some married people that life is too short and unpredictable to stay in a relationship that just doesn't work.
The highest demand for divorce agreements occurred early in the pandemic
The fact that the demand for divorce settlements was highest in mid-April may also indicate that the desire for divorce coincides with the “disillusionment phase” of disaster relief phases.
The disaster relief phases are a model of how individuals and communities respond to traumatic and unprecedented events. Soon after a disaster event like the COVID-19 pandemic, many people experience a brief twinge of optimism. During this time, people and communities feel able to respond to the emergency and recover quickly. As the disaster continues and the need for support from community members exceeds the community's ability to provide assistance, people can become increasingly hopeless and enter a period of disillusionment.
During the disillusionment phase, people show negative reactions to the external stressors of the disaster. These negative reactions – which can include irritability, fatigue, mood swings, and substance abuse – can weigh on otherwise happy marriages and break marriages that are already struggling.
Newlyweds are more likely to seek divorce during COVID-19
Data shows that new marriages were more prone to the challenges of disillusionment. The proportion of couples who bought divorce agreements from Legal Templates and were married in the past five years increased 16% in 2020 year over year. These newly married couples made up the majority at 58% of all couples who bought divorce agreements between March and June 2020. The percentage of couples who have been married in the last five months following a divorce has almost doubled.
The pandemic may have forced recently married couples to face certain issues sooner than they would have been without COVID-19. For example, couples who got married when they were financially stable and then faced layoffs faced financial burdens in the first few months of their marriage when they might otherwise have faced these problems for years or none at all. It is possible that couples pushed for divorce by the coronavirus pandemic would have divorced in the future anyway. The pandemic and related lockdowns may have only speeded up the process.
Too much time together
Regardless of how long the two people have been married, there is evidence that staying in close proximity for long periods increases the likelihood of divorce. Divorce rates tend to be high in January after couples have gone on vacation together, often without a spouse's buffer going to work. When China began easing its COVID-19 response measures by ending the lockdown in early March, divorce petitions increased dramatically. Couples emerging from bans much stricter than those in the U.S. filed for divorce at record rates.
Is COVID-19 Definitely the Cause of the Increase in Divorce?
However, any increase in divorce rates may not be solely due to COVID-19. The data shows that there is an optimal age range for a permanent marriage. People who marry before or after this age group are more likely to divorce than people who marry in the middle of the age group. The median age of marriage for both men and women has increased since before COVID-19. There may be more people marrying beyond the age group most unlikely to divorce.
There is no way of knowing for sure how much the increase in divorce petitions is due to the pandemic. Certainly, the surge in clients filing for divorce at the start of the pandemic shows that COVID-19 and the necessary response to contain the virus played a role.