Will COVID-19 Lead to a Divorce Spike?

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Perhaps some of you caught Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk show this week. If not, you missed her telling her audience – the world – that by having to spend continuous time 24/7 with Will Smith, she realized that after 20 years she does not really know him as a person. She said they have already started learning to love themselves and to like each other anew. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for their relationship!

According to this article from Bloomberg, the experience of Will and Jada is not exactly uncommon. The pandemic has put new strains on marriages in ways not expected. First, couples spend lots of time together with few “outs” so any incompatibility will magnify. Second, if one or both of the spouses is working at home or out of work, the change will play out more dramatically at home. Third, having children around 24/7 also creates stress most couples rarely experience.

We would expect the pandemic to put stress on all of us, and by extension, our relationships. But if relationships were a bit shaky before the pandemic, the pandemic itself may push some relationships over the edge.

While we would hope that hardship brings couples closer together, more often than not it pulls them apart. In China, divorce filings spiked in March as couples could finally leave lockdown and resume some normalcy. Apparently for some couples, the new normal meant life without their spouse.

While we would agree with the lawyers interviewed in the Bloomberg article that we will see a spike in divorce filings in the United States in the months ahead, we would also agree with some of the important considerations. These are not normal times, so one should not base the whole of marriage on such extraordinary circumstances.  Also, we will experience some turbulent economic conditions, which will make assessing child and spousal support more of a challenge or encourage one or the other spouse to take advantage of the situation. Finally, higher emotions in close quarters with the children can lead to frayed custody issues later, as well as some unusual custody schedules as well if a surge in the virus happens in the fall.

We also would expect more motions to modify based on changes wrought by the virus, from job loss to custodial time loss and many other ripple effects from the lockdown.

As we have in the past in this blog, we always encourage people not to react impulsively, particularly in strange times.

But if you do feel you have questions about divorce or modification, contact us – we can help.

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