You might think that with all the stress the pandemic added to our lives, married couples would have banded together to get through this unprecedented challenge facing their family. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Divorce rates spiked by 34% just by April 2020, when the lockdown in the U.S. was just beginning! Experts predict the divorce rate will continue to climb in 2021, as life returns to normal and couples feel safer getting back out in the world.
Why did divorce rates spike? Covid-19 added so many external stressors to our lives, many people were left with no time or energy to deal with internal relationship issues. If there was a minor crack in the marriage’s foundation before Covid-19, the pandemic brought it into sharp focus. Being locked down 24/7 was a struggle for all of us, but people in unhappy marriages could no longer escape the reality of their situation. Whether it was going to the office, a social gathering, or just having someone to vent to, we lost all those things that helped us cope. Some even took out their stress on their partner or children, as we saw an increase in domestic violence rates during this time. But many more couples just decided that living in an unhappy marriage was one more stressor they could no longer bear.
Changes that might impact your divorce
Couples thinking about divorce or separation during this time face significantly more variables in their journey to reach an agreement. Consider just a few of the factors that could impact your outcome:
- Has one party’s employment changed?
- Do both parties have health insurance?
- Is either parent working from home now? If so, will that affect their options when choosing a new home? What could it mean for determining custody?
- Are the children going to school virtually or in person?
- Do both parents agree on health and safety protocols for the kids?
- Can you afford two separate residences now? The pandemic’s impact on supply chains created a scarcity in building materials, which has exacerbated a housing shortage and sent prices skyrocketing.
There IS a bright side!
Child and spousal support is shaped by certain guidelines mandated by the state. Traditionally, couples would agree to arrangements that met the needs of their children and both parents’ schedules, while fulfilling the state’s requirements. The pandemic reshaped many families’ home lives and work environments, and couples separating during the pandemic learned to negotiate alternative methods to custody and co-parenting. Working from home provides much more flexibility, and couples have more options now than ever to get creative in crafting a co-parenting solution that works for everyone. Be prepared to think of new and unique arrangements when considering custody options!
The more things change….
You’ve heard the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”? There’s a lot of truth in that. Even with all the changes Covid-19 brought to our lives, you still need to tackle these basic – yet major – issues when starting the divorce process:
- Distribution of property and debt
- Spousal and/or child support
- Health insurance
- Custody and parenting arrangements
Changes your family made during the last year may have made some of these decisions easier, or it might have made some harder. For example, the pandemic took a greater toll on women than men, with women’s unemployment rates still almost 2% higher than pre-pandemic levels. What might this mean for spousal support? Some studies predict it could be two years before women’s employment rates are back to normal! Many women with children who didn’t lose theirs job were forced to quit their jobs when schools and day cares closed. The financial impact of the pandemic on women is going to be a very important factor to consider when thinking about spousal support, regardless of which side you’re on.
If you’re thinking about getting a divorce now, remember this:
The past year and a half have been hard on all of us, especially kids. Choosing to end a marriage has never been easy, even in the best of circumstances. Covid-19 hasn’t made it any easier, but it has served as a good reminder that, at the end of the day, the most important thing is working together to create a separation agreement that works for your family and your family’s “new normal”, whatever that looks like for you.
Are you thinking about divorce and want to know how the changes caused by Covid-19 could impact you? Find out by scheduling a free consultation with one of the experienced divorce attorneys at Kirkland & Summers. Call us today or simply click the link below.