The covid-19 pandemic has not only put a strain on society and the economy but has placed marriages on the brink of divorce. The protracted periods of family time spent together during the lockdown have made couples realize the marriage milieu they’re mired up in, laden with personal and emotional issues. The pandemic’s added financial pressures and stresses have yielded these high divorce rates. The New York Post reports that interest in separation spiked 15-20 days into lockdown, where data showed that 31 percent of married couples have acknowledged that the pandemic has caused “irreparable” damage to their marriages. Furthermore, the Post adds that the rate of recently married couples who sought divorce doubled in one year, from 11 percent in 2019 to 20 percent in 2020 and that the number of people interested in getting a divorce had gone up to 34%.
The present psychological stressors and turmoil caused by the pandemic, along with the usual pinpricks of minor inconveniences or disagreements relationships bring, have given couples enough of a reason to initiate a divorce. The technological dilemma has caused a backlog in courts and the rescheduling of trials due to possible exposures to the virus, further increasing the costs of getting a divorce. The pandemic has given attorneys and their clients’ difficulties processing and filing their paperwork. The New York Times has pointed out that the typical divorce and notarization processes have balked during the pandemic. Once a divorce lawyer could notarize while waiting for a court to commence, now notarizations happen virtually through email or delivery service, further delaying the entire divorce process. Before the pandemic, around 90 percent of divorce cases did not go to trial, and some have estimated the number to be about 98 percent during the pandemic.
Overall, statistics and rates regarding divorce have gone up. According to LegalTemplates.net, the major stressors of online-remote work coincided with children’s virtual education have made it truly difficult, where unlike the pre-pandemic divorce rates among married couples with children under the age of 18 were low, during the pandemic, however, divorcing couples with children increased by 5% compared to the previous year. Despite this surge in divorce, financial insurance resources and protections were extensively considered, as further explained by LegalTemplates.net. For example, the number of people taking out life insurance policies has increased as a part of spousal support, from 31% in 2019 to 51% in 2020 that was obliged to carry a life insurance policy with an average policy amount of $291,186.
The real estate and housing market has affected the divorce process even more. The pandemic’s financial restraints made it difficult for some to buy or rent out a place while simultaneously paying for filing and attorney fees, as well as spousal support. As New York Times contributor Courtney Rubin explains, some areas such as New York City have experienced a decrease in the market prices that had plummeted where “no one wants to sell the $6 million apartments when it has to be listed at $3 million”. States such as Maryland have helped attenuate the fraught of divorce and its subsequent living arrangements, as “the one year before even requesting a divorce, which used to be the requirement for a mutual voluntary divorce” was waived explains Cheryl Hepfer, JD, principal, and partner at Offit Kurman in Bethesda, MD. The delays have prompted couples to arbiter and mediate amicable agreements between one another, such as uncontested divorces in New York State, which only require a filing fee, and of course, with both parties assenting to an equal settlement of all divorce-related assets. Others, who have the money and can afford more services than just an attorney, have been turning to retired, private judges who hear and settle divorce court cases for $800 an hour, states Daniel Jaffe, a Los Angeles divorce lawyer.
With the economy slowly getting itself back on track, there is a chance that we may see positive changes in divorce rates and data as people are returning to their everyday lifestyles. But with unemployment on the rise, the prolonged economic after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to significantly impact divorce in the United States.