Are More People Getting Divorced Because of COVID-19 Lockdown? Lawyers See Surge in Splits Amid Coronavirus

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Lawyers say they are seeing a surge in divorce inquiries as many couples rethink how they "really" feel about each other.

Attorneys across the U.S. are reporting seeing a spike in divorces as many couples who endured lockdowns together due to COVID-19 are apparently rethinking their relationships. Lawyers and marriage counselors told USA Today that the now-familiar stresses of quarantine - money worries, boredom, lack of escape from each other, conflict over the kids, conflict over the chores, lack of exercise - are forcing many couples to reconsider how they "really" feel about each other

Divorce inquiries among top New York City matrimonial lawyers rose 50% during the first week of the “pause” order in New York, the New York Post reported.

And, celebrities are feeling the quarantine tensions, too, with some wanting out of their relationships as soon as possible. Former "Full House" star, Mary-Kate Olsen is one. The childhood star filed an emergency divorce from husband Oliver Sarkozy in New York City in May, but was turned away because it wasn’t deemed an “essential” matter in New York’s pandemic closed-courts, reported USA Today.  

And, new data collected from Legal Templates, a company that provides legal documents, said the number of people looking for divorces was 34% higher from March through June compared to 2019.

"Only the strongest relationships are going to survive," Michelle Gervais, an attorney specializing in family law, told USA Today, "Either (the crisis) brings them together or it makes them realize they need to get out because life is too short." 

Stacey Lee, clinical director of the Couples Institute in Menlo, California told USA Today her summation: "Sadly, this is the perfect cocktail for increased divorce." "Even in the best of times, even 'easy' divorces require tremendous and emotional endurance," she said.

"Pandemics, quarantine, the effects on life and society as we know it is changing and that is as uncertain as you can get it," Lee continued.

Steve Li, a divorce lawyer in Shanghai, told Bloomberg News, the coronavirus divorce surge was first seen in China and said his caseload has increased 25% since his city eased restrictions in mid-March.

What is it about a pandemic that can often lead to divorce? Is it today's new normal that is just too difficult for some to adapt to?

For one, the typical dual-income couple sees each other for 30 minutes in the morning, and two to three hours in the evenings. Though time spent together on the weekend is often longer, there are usually errands to run, activities to attend and visits from family and friends. Now, many of these couples are at home with each other all day long.

A clinical psychologist specializing in divorce shared a few complaints her female clients had regarding their partner that apparently seemed to have surfaced during months of lockdown. One client, she told the Post, said she couldn’t believe how “controlling” her husband was about cleanliness and said, “he wipes up my sweat when I am working out.” 

Another client told her that she felt trapped and called her partner “paranoid,” because he would not allow her to go shopping without him. 

While another told her how “unsupported” she felt by her husband when, after she called 311 to complain that the bar next door wasn’t following social distancing rules, he quipped, “Everyone needs to let off some steam.” 

Experts recommend couples in crisis consult a therapist or marriage counselor, and if need be, a divorce lawyer. Those going through with divorce should strive to establish co-parenting, visitation and child support plans in advance, pull financial records and develop a budget for after the divorce and commit to no new financial obligations, as divorces can be pricey.