In just months, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe by storm. The US, which currently leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, has felt the impact of the coronavirus more keenly than many countries. Starting in March and continuing throughout April and May, states across the US implemented mandatory stay-at-home orders, requiring civilians to quarantine indoors and shutting down "nonessential" businesses such as restaurants and movie theatres.
In mid-May, cities across the country began to reopen, and Texas was no exception. Texas began reopening through a series of phases which each phases allowing more businesses to reopen and allowing more customers or patrons.
Unfortunately, the impacts of reopening during COVID-19 have begun to become apparent, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott announcing a state-wide hold on the state’s reopening plan with the closing of bars and reduction of restaurant capacity and limited outdoor gatherings today.
A faltering economy has been widely listed as the impetus for reopening the country. However, many lawyers predict the economy isn't the only thing that will accelerate as people leave quarantine—across the globe, family lawyers are preparing for a drastic uptick in divorces. Today, we're taking a look at why divorces may skyrocket as stay-at-home orders across the country lift.
Record Numbers of Divorces in China—Setting a Precedent?
The first country to suffer from a mass outbreak of the coronavirus, China is also one of the first countries to resume operations and lift quarantines. As China opened back up, record numbers of divorce filings across the country threatened to overwhelm court clerks.
In the cities of Xian and Dazhou, in central China, residents filed so many divorces that government offices became backlogged with divorce cases. An article on the city of Miluo's website reported that "staff members didn't even have time to drink water" because so many couples were lining up at courts to file for divorce.
Many divorce lawyers posit that western nations such as the US will see a similar escalation in divorces once stay-at-home and quarantine orders begin to lift.
Why Are Couples Filing for Divorce Post-Quarantine?
There are several reasons the COVID-19 pandemic may inspire couples to file for divorce. Here are just a few of the key reasons:
- Economic stress. COVID-19 effectively handicapped the economy in the US, particularly towards the outset of the pandemic. At the time of writing this article, well over 20 million Americans have filed unemployment. That figure doesn't factor in the multitudes of individuals who have reported difficulty receiving unemployment benefits despite being eligible. The unemployment rate sat at around 14.7% in April, and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed concerns that the number could increase to 25% before the end of the pandemic—a figure not seen since the Great Depression. And while we did see an improvement in May, we don’t yet know how the impact of the slowdown in reopening.
For many couples, money is already a sore spot. Money problems are commonly cited as the number-one cause of divorce in the US, and Americans have a reputation for refusing to talk about finances with each other—even when it could improve (or save) their relationships.
The added stress of losing jobs and being forced to reign in finances or go over budget (roughly 78% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck) may spell the end for married couples who already have money problems. Since Powell doesn't expect the economy to begin recovering until the second half of the year, couples with financial difficulties aren't out of the woods yet, even if states are starting to reopen.
- Different schedules are causing stress at home. Many individuals who do still have jobs now find themselves working from home (WFH)—Google and Twitter are just two of many major companies that are preparing to put WFH policies in place at least until 2021. For many couples, working while both partners are home is stressful—focusing on writing a report or making a sales call can be difficult with someone else in the background.
The fact that schools across the country closed and many schools asked parents to help ensure that students receive online learning, only exacerbated the issue for many couples. As if working from home simultaneously wasn't already difficult enough, many parents also found themselves acting as substitute teachers or trying to wrangle their children while their spouse worked. Even though schools in Texas plans to reopen for school in the fall, it may be too little, too late.
Additionally, parents may find their jobs more difficult than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Children no longer have full access to essential outlets for their energy, such as playtime with friends or on the playground. Adolescents and teenagers were frustrated by missing events such as prom or graduation. Even young adults such as college students might be prone to anger, forced back home and away from their studies and friends. Parents will have to work with children to help them handle these emotions while struggling to contend with the effects of the pandemic on their own lives.
Situations, where one (or both) spouse(s) remain employed as an essential worker who consistently risks coming into contact with the virus, are no less stressful, particularly when children are involved. Essential workers may feel stress from increased hours and hazardous work, while their partners and children worry about contracting COVID-19 from someone who may come into contact with the virus every day.
Even for couples with strong relationships, the COVID-19 pandemic introduces a large number of additional stressors into the relationship. Few couples get married under the assumption they'll be together constantly, and job or circumstance-related frustrations only add to the problem.
- Infidelity. Surprisingly, divorce lawyers across the nation are receiving queries from potential clients who believe their spouse is committing adultery. One family lawyer, Heather Hostetter, spoke to The Washingtonian about a client who believes her husband is using long quarantine bike-rides to conduct an affair with another woman.
Affairs are difficult to keep under wraps even when both parties in the couple work in different locations and can go out for activities regularly. When both partners have nowhere to go and are aware of every text the other person sends or phone call they have, it's even more difficult to cover up infidelity. Individuals who find out their partner is engaged in an affair during quarantine may not want to file for divorce during the pandemic, when moving out or conducting the divorce process may be difficult. However, as states start to reopen, individuals who held off on pursuing divorce may finally decide to file.
These three factors are only a few of the reasons why so many family lawyers find themselves bracing for a skyrocketing divorce rate once states move further into their reopening plans, and people truly start to reintegrate into society.
If you're interested in filing for divorce, we can help. Our team at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, has over 110 years of combined experience helping Texas navigate divorce.
To schedule a case evaluation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.