For new relationships, couples who have just moved in together, and those who already spend every waking minute together, they may not notice much of a difference when all of their time is spent in quarantine. Other married couples simply just function well together, even under stressful circumstances, like extended stay-at-home orders. One spouse will spend time with the kids and take care of the house while the other works remotely, and then switch. Others may have a different schedule that works well for them.
But for the married couples who were already contemplating divorce before the stay-at-home order started, these relationships are in trouble. Surely having to live with a spouse with whom you frequently fight is rocky, but going through a pandemic and spending all of your time together is a ticking time bomb.
China’s Increased Divorce Rate
The courts are currently closed, apart from essential cases and emergency issues likes domestic violence, so there are no reports on the current number of divorces throughout the states. But since China’s brief re-opening, we can use their spiked divorce rate as a forecast that the U.S. will also see a large uptick.
Since the virus hit the majority of China in late January, it had canceled a number of large events, forcing unhappy couples to endure extra time in the same house. Some even had to endure the pressure and presence of extended family. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Chinese officials had actually hoped that having to stay home together would lead to another baby boom, but frankly it was the opposite. In fact, there were 162 reports of domestic violence in February.
Lockdown had also made the means of seeking help very challenging; the police were very busy enforcing lockdowns that they didn’t have time to respond to emergency calls. The courts that would also normally issue orders of protection were closed.
What this Means for the U.S.
While Americans should not be worried about not being able to receive help during the COVID pandemic due to overwhelmed authorities, we can expect to see some of the same trends in the U.S. as China.
1. Divorced Parents with Children
For parents with child maintenance, or custody, each case is unique. Some parents continue to see their children during parenting time as usual, while some are taking additional efforts to protect their children’s safety, spending time together via Zoom or Facetime. While these circumstances are more extreme, this would be more realistic in the cases of healthcare and other essential workers.
Other children may be living from their parents long distance and would normally travel by plane for visitation. Airlines are still open, but sending children off in one of the most bacteria-infested vehicles for hours at a time during a global pandemic is the last thing they’d want to be doing. This is another case in which virtual visits are more fitting.
2. Moving Out
Fortunately, movers are also considered essential businesses. In worst case scenarios, couples who “can’t take it anymore” can move out if necessary, but even this can be dangerous as they don’t know what kind of bacteria has been lurking in their trucks, equipment, and boxes.
But if moving out still seems like the best idea, many professionals are available and are willing to help. Doing so can save individuals from abusive marriages, extremely stressful situations, and prevent them from having to sleep on the couch or extra bedrooms of their friends and/or extended families’ homes.
3. Domestic Abuse
According to Time, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has seen an increased number of callers. These victims are especially vulnerable during state-issued lockdowns, leaving them trapped inside with their abusers and away from friends and family.
Despite the dangers of their situation, many victims are actually bypassing help as they believe it means risking exposure to the coronavirus. This is of course assuming that they can even get care from a hospital with numerous COVID-19 patients.
As far as getting help from the hotline, they are still eligible to receive restraining orders as it is considered an essential service. Even during a global pandemic, the courts can still order an abuser out their home.
For those unable to hire a divorce lawyer, domestic violence shelters are opened but are overwhelmed as they struggle to maintain social distancing and state regulations. On the other hand, there are many advocacy groups that are using texts and live chats to communicate with the remaining victims stuck at home.
Despite the want, and for some, need, to get a divorce, many are unable to afford it, let alone a new house after moving out. This in turn has forced them to continue living together, even after their divorce, because they were unable to sell their home or buy/rent another. For divorced couples with children, they are unable to keep up with support payments.
The economic effect on this global pandemic has also left millions without a job and even unemployment as the majority of stimulus and unemployment checks have yet to be distributed. Some couples have opted for mediation, a cheaper alternative rather than going to court which involves both parties negotiating and resolving issues on their own. But the benefit of this option is that it can be done virtually, allowing the couple to move forward without needing to involve the courts.
5. Working with a Divorce Attorney
Of course every marriage is unique and while some are able to resolve their issues through mediation, others cannot. For those who can’t, the services of a qualified divorce attorney are most optimal. Indeed the courts are not open for non-essential services, however, those who are contemplating divorce can reach out to an experienced attorney to plan and prepare for one after the quarantine.
Many attorneys believe that divorces will rise after the stay-at-home order, and an experienced professional in the Schaumburg, IL is ready to help. Allen Gabe has been practicing for over 30 years and specializes in family and divorce law in the northwest Chicago suburbs.
He understands matters can be especially stressful during the quarantine, which is why he is ready work with you and help prepare for what needs to be done. Whether it’s domestic violence, child maintenance, or paternity cases, Allen will listen to the details of your case and help you through the legal process to reach the best solution for you.
Give us a call at (847) 241-5000, Ext 121 to set up your initial consultation today with Allen Gabe Law P.C.