This week we surpassed a milestone many did not see coming this time last year. This week a year ago California was placed under a stay-at-home order to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Just days before the shut down, I was still traveling for mediations and Court hearings. At that time, while many people were attempting to take some sort of precautions, the “elbow bump” instead of a handshake seemed to be the biggest change to everyday life. Days later the world changed dramatically, and those with occupations that allowed it were sent to work from home.
For many, working from home felt like a blessing. We got to sleep in, skip rush hour traffic, and stay in our pajamas all day long if we chose to. Couples were excited to be at home “co-workers”, and parents relished the potential for family bonding in the unprecedented times. All in all, many people were trying to look at the lockdown in as positive of a way as they could. Maintaining that positive outlook for over a year, however, is nearly impossible to manage.
As a society, we went through all the ups and downs the pandemic and isolation have created. We eagerly binged Tiger King, baked (or attempted to bake) homemade sourdough bread, participated in family zoom calls, and had socially distant drive-by birthday parties. Some of us even stopped wearing pants on a regular basis, or at least semi-permanently moved all pants with buttons to the bottom of our drawers (I’ll pull the jeans out again someday).
The enjoyments associated with our “new normal” have worn off for most, leaving us to focus on the many stressors that have come with the lockdown. Those couples that were excited to be at home “co-workers” are more easily irritated with their partners because there is a lack of separation and personal space. Those with children are finding their at home work life has to be balanced with taking care of their children’s at home school life, and they are left on their own to manage it all simultaneously and often don’t get any of that personal time to recharge.
No matter your personal situation, the pandemic brought on a severe increase in the amount of stress and anxiety the average person feels daily. Dealing with that stress has become a focus for many, and we often look to our partner for support during these times. Since we all deal with stress differently what one partner needs is not always compatible with what the other partner is looking for or can provide. When both partners are feeling stress and anxiety simultaneously, many are left feeling unsatisfied and unhappy.
The pandemic and lockdown are believed to have created an environment for conflict, and an exacerbation of underlying issues in relationships. The causes for the unhappiness and ultimate separations or divorce are not necessarily changing. The lockdown has simply provided a spotlight and focus on issues that might have been overlooked or pushed to the side in a world where we weren’t spending constant time with each other in the confined spaces of our homes.
The prolonged period of isolation, and the general stress of the pandemic and all it has caused, has created a perfect storm for unhappy couples, which experts believe will result in an influx of divorce filings. Statistically, divorce rates are up about 34% worldwide, with some areas of the world seeing divorces skyrocketing 122% between July and October 2020. In the United States, however, the data contradicts the early predictions that the lockdown would cause a surge in divorce rates.
Unfortunately, experts believe the data suggests the decline in divorce doesn’t mean couples are living their lockdown dreams. It’s expected some relationships are not happily connecting in lockdown re-watching the first wave of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Disney+ and becoming experts at their hobbies on Masterclass. To the contrary, the expectation is couples are staying together for practical reasons like money and safety. The economic uncertainty of the time, combined with the pandemics health concerns may be encouraging unhappy couples to stay together until the world feels like it has calmed down and is back to normal.
It is completely understandable, as the logistics of divorce during the pandemic could feel like a nightmare. Figuring out the ins and outs of a divorce is complicated. The split of assets and debts, child custody, visitation and support require a lot of creative thinking and negotiation. Adding the issues that have become prevalent due to the pandemic and lockdown have made the process infinitely more complex. Couples now must consider the issues of closed daycares, distanced virtual schooling, out of work partners and a host of new personal worries.
Experts believe the divorce rates might also be down simply because people think divorces are not possible during lockdown. For a short while, the court system was on a brief pause. Now, however, family court is back up and running and divorces are being handled with virtual meetings and virtual court hearings. While things are running at a slower pace than normal, the court system is functioning and operational and things like mediation and informal negotiations can move your case along. Legal separation and divorces are still happening on a regular basis, and we can help you navigate the system to get you through it.
The additional layers of issues created by the pandemic and lockdown have intensified a situation that is already emotional and overwhelming. If you are considering a separation or divorce it is important to consider all these potential issues and develop a plan and strategy that works best for you and your family. Whether your focus ranges from concern with child custody and co-parenting, to the split of your shared business assets is a completely personal issue that requires a personal approach to your separation or divorce. We can help you with that. We will help you create and develop a plan that fits you best, and help you fully vet the ins and outs of your separation and divorce so you can focus on yourself, your family and the next steps of your life.