Divorce in the age of Covid-19: Is it Time?

A Conversation About the Pandemic Divorce Surge

Divorce rates have risen thirty-four percent in the United States, and the pandemic is to blame. Sadly, it wasn’t hard to see coming. Covid-19 is proving to be more than just a respiratory illness; it’s a mental health crisis of the highest order that’s playing itself out on our home and family lives. Months-old statistics on divorce filings from China, where the virus first took hold and site of some of the most stringent lockdown measures yet seen around the globe, left little doubt as to the possibility. Millions of couples are reassessing their relationships, for themselves and their families. If you’re here reading this, odds are you’re one of them. There’s no reason not to take a thorough, sober account of the facts, and to make the best choice for yourself and your family.

 Some Information on Divorce Filings During Covid-19

The situation is dire for American marriages, particularly among newlyweds. Twenty percent of those married in the last five months are now separated. Hardest hit is the Bible Belt, with the five states of Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Alabama having the highest numbers of divorce agreements per capita. While the surge is by no means confined to these states, it’s no surprise that they also have high numbers of Covid-19 cases, and large sections of their workforces at risk of being laid off. Interest in legal separation peaked on April 13th, just between the two to three-week mark from when most states began implementing major lockdown procedures. The sudden response to an increasingly dangerous pandemic brought normal life to an abrupt halt the world over, and began a trying time for the institution of marriage.

The Real Strain of the Virus

Amidst the larger crisis, the whole world is quietly finding out just how much stress the prolonged, shared proximity Covid-19 can put on a marriage. There’s also the general anxiety of living in trying times, and the uncertainty of not being able to act on resources you might have had as little as a few months ago. Planning for the future, as a couple or a family, is in equal jeopardy. One or more partners might be laid off. The kids, if any, might not be able to go back to school, at least for long. A marriage and a family are only as strong as their foundations, and many Americans have had the foundations shaken out from under them. There’s no shame in that, none of us could have predicted this. There is a glimmer of hope. Much of the data available is only on requests for divorce filings. While some of these are bound to follow through, there is still an opportunity for many people to reconcile. It’s up to you to decide whether or not your marriage is compromising your overall well-being during this difficult time.

Married Life in Lockdown

Have you changed during the course of Covid-19? What about your spouse, your children? Has living under quarantine caused damage to your family dynamic? Along with the increase in divorce filings the CDC is reporting troubling mental health statistics. Forty percent of adults in the United States reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse during late June. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were the largest of the documented increases, which also included stress-disorders, drug use, and suicidal ideations. All of these can be either the causes of, or added burdens to the new routines of married life during Covid-19. Let’s examine a hypothetical scenario. One partner is in an essential occupation and is still working, very possibly extra hours. The other has been laid off, and is having trouble adjusting. They may have begun drinking more. There may be friction over the new routine of childcare or household chores. Does this sound familiar? If so, you aren’t alone. The next step is up to you.

Filing for Divorce During Covid-19

Whether during a pandemic or just through the course of normal life, there is no good time to file for divorce. It can be a traumatic event. It can also be necessary. The unfortunate truth is that tensions are high right now, and some people aren’t left with much of a choice. In conjunction with substance abuse and other mental health issues, domestic violence is also on the rise. Others have simply been forced to admit that, whether on their own or simply because of the emotional strain of the pandemic, their spouse isn’t the person they believed them to be.

Through it all, please remember that the important thing is to get through this crisis. Maybe that means with your spouse. It might also mean that you’ll be in a better, healthier, and perhaps even safer place without them in your life. Separation is never easy, but it can, sometimes be the right decision to take for yourself and your family. We’re here if you need us.

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