Conflict exists in every relationship when two individuals are learning to work together. However, during stressful times the frequency and severity of conflict can increase, leading to divorce. 2020 brought an assortment of added stressors to couples worldwide, from financial strain and job loss to fear of sickness, working from home, unexpected homeschooling, and more. As 2021 comes into focus, it’s essential to consider the toll these added stressors have taken on married couples and account for the increase in divorce rates that is likely to occur.
Marriage and Divorce Before COVID-19
The frequency of divorce in America had been falling in recent years, and in 2019, it hit a record fifty-year low. According to the Institute of Family Studies, for every 1,000 marriages in 2019, only 14.9 ended in divorce. U.S. Census Data also recognized that the median duration of current marriages increased recently, from 19 years in 2010 to 19.8 years in 2019. In 2019, the median age for a male at his first marriage was 30.3, while the median age for a female at her first marriage was 28.4.
But how do these statistics correlate with the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Impact on Relationships
Recent events have caused households worldwide to remain at home, limiting interactions with extended family members and friends. Couples are stuck at home with or without children and are forced to face various issues head-on that have proven to be the root cause of many relationship problems, such as financial stress, boredom, arguing about household chores, and disagreements about parenting. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed limitations on regularly accessible support systems, causing additional strain to be placed on relationships that may have already been struggling.
Couples usually turn to friends or extracurricular activities as an outlet to manage stress, and without these, many marriages have reached their breaking point in 2020 and 2021. Remaining at home has helped many couples recognize relationship problems that wouldn’t have been otherwise addressed. Though difficult, this additional attention has been beneficial as it allows couples to pursue a healthy trajectory – even if it’s moving forward with separation.
Increasing Divorce Rates
Surprisingly, evidence showing an increase in divorce rates came in the early Spring of 2020, which wasn’t long after the lockdown started. For instance, the interest in divorce increased by 34% in the U.S. by April, and couples newly married were the primary contributors to this increase. In 2019, 11% of couples who were married for less than five months sought a divorce, while in 2020, this percentage increased to 20%. While this may seem alarming, experts also continued to predict the rate to rise as 2020 came to a close.
Many have been facing and attempting to manage more significant stress from external sources, which puts added pressure on relationships. This added tension has not only led to increasing divorce rates but also a rise in domestic abuse. However, the increase in domestic abuse brought an unfamiliar issue to the surface – a drop in domestic-violence hotline calls. While a decline in calls seems optimistic, it symbolizes the limitations placed on victims attempting to connect to outreach services.
Pursuing Separation or Divorce
As access to vaccines is increasing and social restrictions are easing, resuming a normal, pre-pandemic life will still take more time. Considering separation or divorce during the pandemic isn’t unusual, especially with the added stress, financial challenges, and increasing time spent with a spouse. While deciding to end a marriage is never easy, there are many options couples can take to make the best choice for the family, such as:
- Seeking legal advice from an experienced family law attorney
- Seeking expert advice from a therapist
- Utilizing statewide resources if domestic abuse is occurring
- Practicing self-care to uphold physical and mental health
As the current year progresses, an increase in divorces will likely happen as couples seeking a divorce in 2020 couldn’t file because of the lockdown. Many are now prepared to move forward with their chosen transitions, so overall emotional well-being and quality of life can be strengthened once more.
Resilience in the New Year
Deciding to move forward with divorce or separation is never easy, and knowing it progressed from external stress can be emotionally taxing. However, couples choosing to continue with a divorce after the pandemic are encouraged to practice resilience as the current year progresses. While divorce is life-changing, the decision likely stemmed from underlying issues that didn’t get attention previously. As statewide restrictions continue to be lifted, divorcing couples will regain access to various options and resources to navigate the process effectively.
This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.