COVID-Related Divorce Trends: Which Ones Are Here to Stay?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many aspects of society, and the divorce rate is no exception. In this article, we will explore some of the most notable COVID-related divorce trends that have developed since 2020, when the pandemic first shut the world down, as well as which trends are most likely to continue in the years to come.
Increase in Overall Divorce Rate
One of the most significant COVID-related divorce trends is the increase in the overall divorce rate. This is likely due to several factors, including the stress of living in quarantine, financial insecurity, and the increased difficulty of communication when couples are forced to spend more time together or apart – depending on how drastically COVID-19 affected their jobs and family. While it is difficult to say definitively if this trend will continue, it seems likely that the pandemic has had a lasting impact on the divorce rate.
My office, for example, has seen a definite increase in complaints about how the other spouse handled the stress caused by the pandemic, or was wasteful with limited financial resources, or even how extramarital affairs were discovered during the shutdowns once couples were forced to spend so much time in close quarters with each other. Thankfully, so far in 2022, it seems that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, but the new outlook on life adopted by many during the shutdowns may also mean that fewer people are willing to stay in a bad marriage when everyone has been reminded just how short life really can be.
Increase in “Grey” Divorces
Another notable COVID-related divorce trend is the increase in divorces among older couples, sometimes known as “grey” divorces. This trend is likely due to a combination of factors, including retirement planning gone awry during the shutdowns and empty nest syndrome once forced to stay alone in close quarters for so long without visits from children and other extended family members. In many cases, older couples simply find that they have grown apart after spending so much time together during the pandemic. While this trend may not continue in the long term, it is likely that the pandemic has had a significant impact on how older couples view their relationships.
One interesting thing that my office has seen since the pandemic began is older couples who thought they were financially secure pre-pandemic, only to find out that their financial reserves weren’t what they thought they were once jobs were lost and those funds were needed to survive. Or, if they were financially secure, some spouses had serious disagreements about how to spend their financial reserves during and just after the shutdowns. While pre-pandemic, these might have been minor disagreements; once the world shut down and times were really tough, some couples found these disagreements insurmountable other than to agree to divorce and go their separate ways.
Increase in Divorces Involving Parents with Small Children
Finally, there has been an increase in divorces among couples with young children. This trend is likely due to the increased stress and anxiety that comes with parenting – and homeschooling young children – during a pandemic. In many cases, parents find that they are simply unable to cope with the added stress of twenty-four-seven childcare and homeschooling their own children, which they likely never had to do pre-pandemic. If one parent was the “main” caregiver and teacher by default, while the other parent played video games or binged Netflix, the frustration level is easy to understand.
Another major issue for many parents during the pandemic was parental disagreements over whether or when to get their children vaccinated. Never before, at least in recent generations, has the issue of vaccinations for young children been so widely cited as a reason to divorce as it has been since early 2021. Family court judges across the nation have found themselves taking center stage when it comes to resolving these issues, sometimes even before they are asked to decide on a parenting schedule or child support calculations. While this trend may not continue in the long term, it is likely that the pandemic has had a significant impact on how parents view their relationships and how they make decisions for their children.
Increased Use of Technology in Family Court Proceedings
Another significant (and welcome) trend the pandemic gave us is family courts finally adopting a broader and more open use of technology to ensure that citizens have access to the justice they deserve. For years, especially in the smaller counties of our state, technology was almost a four-letter word in the halls of family court. However, since the courts began to re-open to hear cases a few months after the pandemic was officially declared, courts have allowed hearings and other proceedings to occur using virtual methods. This has been a game-changer for many families, especially those who live in rural areas and would have to travel long distances to attend hearings or those families affected by chronic illnesses where any possible exposure to COVID could be deadly.
While this technology trend is likely (hopefully) here to stay, it is important to note that not all family court proceedings are appropriate for virtual hearings. In some cases, such as when there are allegations of abuse or neglect, or the case may require a jail sentence to be imposed as a consequence of contempt of court, it is simply not possible to protect the safety and well-being of the parties or witnesses without an in-person appearance. That said, I believe that the use of technology in family court proceedings is here to stay and will continue to increase in the coming years.
So, which COVID-related divorce trends do I believe are here to stay? It is difficult to say definitively, but it seems likely that the pandemic will continue to have an immediate impact on the divorce rate and on how courts and judges hear cases involving those affected by illness or other situations where in-person appearances are difficult. Family Courts in South Carolina have returned to a more normal schedule and with fully staffed courtrooms and courthouses. We are happy to be back representing our clients in a more “normal” fashion, but we are also excited about what the future of family court looks like now that the fear of technology has been (mostly) overcome.
What do you think? Have you been impacted by any of these COVID-related divorce trends? Do you agree with these trends? What other COVID-related divorce trends have you seen? Let me know in the comments below.
If you and your spouse are considering filing for divorce, your case will be handled according to your state’s laws regardless of how the pandemic has affected you or your family. This may not be what you want or what is beneficial to your future. If you’re in South Carolina, it’s important to contact an experienced family court attorney like Ben Stevens today to discuss your options. Even if you aren’t in South Carolina, Mr. Stevens is happy to offer referrals to a well-qualified attorney located in your state.
Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and he is a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. If you or someone you know is facing a divorce, separation, child custody, visitation, or other family law case, contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule a consultation.
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Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
ABOUT J. BENJAMIN STEVENS
Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172
Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina. His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.
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