Is the pandemic to blame for the increase in divorces?

An unexpected outcome of the pandemic that has been rearing its ugly head is a new phenomenon known as "pandemic divorce." As the name suggests, higher-than-normal numbers of couples all across the nation are calling it quits.

The phenomenon has even taken hold in our nation's capital as many couples in Washington, D.C., are filing for divorce, more so than in previous years. Divorce lawyer Michelle C. Thomas, founder of M.C. Thomas and Associates Law Firm shared with WTOP that in the past couple of months, her office has seen a startling 70 percent increase in calls. 

According to a study by Legal Templates, a company that provides legal documents, U.S. divorce rates in March and June were up 34 percent over last year. Legal Templates noted that couples who had children younger than 18 were less likely to divorce, but during the pandemic, that statistic has risen. In fact, 45 percent of the couples that did file for divorce had children under the age of 18. This rate is 5 percent higher than it was in previous years. 

The survey also highlighted an interesting note regarding the role the pandemic played on newlyweds. Nearly 20 percent of the couples who divorced this year were newlyweds. This is up from 11 percent during the same time last year, nearly double the rate.

"This indicates that recently married couples were less equipped to deal with the stressors of the COVID-19 virus than mature couples," the researchers surmised.

Other interesting stats the study uncovered include the following: 

  • States across the Bible Belt, including Arkansas and Alabama, recorded the highest number of divorce rates during the pandemic.
  • 23 percent of couples surveyed owned a house together, and 28 percent owned a vehicle together.
  • There were a huge number of insurance policy payouts as highlighted by the divorce settlements.

What Is Causing the Pandemic Divorce in DC?

Along with other cities across the nation, D.C. has not been immune to COVID stressors. During the pandemic, thousands of workers were either laid off or transitioned to working from home. For many couples whose relationship was on the rocks, this constant time with each other was an unavoidable stressor. In pre-pandemic days, couples did not have to be around each other 24/7 due to the demands of work, social gatherings, and other activities that took them away from their spouse. In a city like D.C. where there were always plenty of available distractions, all events and activities practically ceased overnight. 

Couples who were in a money-tight marriage saw the stressors tenfold if one partner ended up losing their job during the pandemic. For many couples, the loss of income heightened money issues that were already there. With D.C. being a costly city to live in, many couples just couldn't tiptoe around the issue any longer. 

Lastly, as states began to lock down and children stayed home and transitioned into remote learning, the stress of childcare played a role in dissolving marriages that were already struggling. Parents who usually were out at work found themselves struggling to balance both work and childcare. 

Overall, pre-pandemic life allowed couples who were struggling with one a chance to put a bandaid on their marital issues. These couples found relief in distancing themselves from their partner, allowing the relationship to continue. But once families were forced to stay indoors with one another, quarantine put a microscope on issues that were already there, bringing them to the surface, and sending many couples to their breaking point. 

In the survey conducted by Legal Templates, 31 percent of the couples shared that the lockdown resulted in irreparable damage to the relationship. Interestingly enough, the survey points to April 13 being the peak of when many couples decided to call it quits. This just so happens to be the same time frame that a majority of states around the nation went into lockdown mode.

It’s not just America, however; divorce rates in China skyrocketed during the pandemic as well.

Across the world, the question remains: how will the pandemic change the way couples view marriage and commitment? If it only takes a short amount of time to be with someone in close quarters before they drive you nuts, could this change how people decide to tie the knot? Let us know what you think in the comments section!