External stressors like pandemics force individuals to rely heavily on those who are closest to them for support. When COVID-19 hit America, many thought the pandemic would expedite divorces because of lockdown-related pressures.
However, several reports have shown a decline in divorce rates.
The first reason divorce rates declined was because couples were forced to quarantine together. In Florida, marriage numbers were lower than researchers expected. Other states like Oregon, Arizona, Missouri, and New Hampshire recorded low divorce rates. As of 2019, there were approximately one million divorces in the U.S. According to a study by Bowling Green’s Wendy Manning and Krista Payne, in 2020, the U.S. had a shortfall of 191,053 divorces.
The sharp decline does not mean that couples were happier together while in lockdown. The pandemic was forcing dissatisfied couples to be together for practical reasons. Firstly, divorce is expensive, and couples were reluctant because of the economic uncertainty. An option that was slowly gaining popularity was self-help divorce agreements. Studies show that they rose by 34% in 2020.
Some studies show that the pandemic created additional stress in marriage relationships.
The tensions were caused by partners staying together every day, disagreements about handling home-schooling, sanitization, and socializing. The stresses were also associated with lost jobs, lost loved ones, and political tempests. According to one study, 34% of married couples aged between 18-55 reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had raised tensions in their marriage. This means most of these couples would seek divorce after the end of the pandemic or when specific measures were relaxed.
Another reason that contributed to the declining rate of divorces is court closures.
To maintain the rules of social distancing, most courts were forced to close in the wake of the Corona virus. This meant that couples pursuing divorces had no option but to wait for the courts to re-open. For example, in Los Angeles, the courts closed from March 16 to August 2020. Virtual court hearings only started in September. In Maryland, the courts were set to allow hearings starting in 2022.
Additionally, where courts were opened, it took longer to process divorce requests. These delays forced couples to either stick together or to consider separation or arbitration.
A new survey suggests that the pandemic brought couples closer to each other. A study by the American Family Survey found that a majority of married Americans believed the pandemic had made them appreciate their spouses. Parents who neglected their duties now had time to spend with their children and notice their strengths and challenges. Many agree that their commitment to an already failing marriage had deepened.
Couples had nowhere to go. They could not go hang out in clubs or meet with friends. Cheating partners could also not continue with their affairs. This means they had to get used to staying with each other until the end of the pandemic.
While data from some states show that divorce filing has declined, there will likely be a surge in divorces after the COVID-19 due to pent-up relationship demands. However, there is a steady decline rate, which is good news for married Americans. This means their marriages will be more stable, and their children will be raised by two parents.
The COVID-pandemic was an unexpected blow to the health and economic status of regions across the globe. Apart from affecting the cost of living, employment, and schooling arrangements, the pandemic also impacted relationships. While many expected that the pandemic would cause a high rise in divorces due to the hardships it brought, many studies show that the divorce and marriage rates declined steadily.
The family law attorneys at Minella Law Group have much experience dealing with the many issues that face families in todays current climate. Contact our attorneys if you think you need legal guidance or help.