Will COVID-19 Increase the US Divorce Rate?

The coronavirus pandemic has affected most aspects of our day-to-day lives—our relationships included. In China, the divorce rate boomed after COVID-19 quarantines lifted, and many family lawyers think the same thing could happen in the US.

Today, we're taking some time to explore the divorce rate in the US today, and how COVID-19 may impact marriages across the nation.

Why Do Lawyers Think COVID-19 Will Spike the Divorce Rate?

The precedent for a post-COVID spike in the divorce rate was created in China once COVID-19 quarantines across the country lifted.

In some cities, court clerks didn't even have time to take breaks because they were so busy helping couples file for divorce. Courts across China saw a record-high number of divorce requests being filed immediately post-lockdown, and many family lawyers think the same trend could extend to the US.

What's the Divorce Rate in the US Right Now?

That's a complicated question.

The divorce rate in the US isn't 50%, a common figure cited in pop-culture pieces. That statistic is from when the US divorce rate peaked in 1980—it's actually been on a decline since.

Millennials are bucking several trends, getting married much later and divorcing less than previous generations. However, the divorce rate among baby boomers is spiking—the divorce rate for adults aged 50 and over doubled between 1990 and 2010.

Since millennials are getting married at an older average age than previous generations, we'll probably need to wait a few years (or decades) to get good data on how often millennials divorce. As it stands now, however, the divorce rate among millennials and younger generations is generally on the decline.

Why Would COVID-19 Make People Divorce?

There are several reasons COVID-19 may lead to an increased divorce rate:

  • Economic instability. Over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off. The pandemic is responsible for unemployment numbers not seen since the Great Recession and Depression, and with cases on the rise, the economy doesn't stand to improve anytime soon. Money is often cited as the biggest instigator in marital fights. As more people lose their jobs, the potential for an escalation in unemployment-related divorces increases.
  • Being cooped up with someone for months on end isn't good for many relationships. Many couples rely on the time they get away from each other at work and with friends to rest and recharge. Spending months cooped up in a house or apartment with a significant other exacerbates any existing tension, and makes fights more likely to occur. It's a great environment for general tension in the household, which can lead to divorce the longer it goes on without being addressed.
  • Quarantines may expose infidelity. Some lawyers have noted that it's more difficult to commit adultery while quarantined and that those who do run a greater risk of getting caught. Adulterous spouses could find themselves on the wrong end of a divorce filing as the result of COVID-19.
  • Children being at home all the time is a recipe for tension. Schools across the country shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off, forcing parents to act as teacher's aides and help their children navigate online learning environments. For employed parents, that means juggling acting like a substitute teacher while simultaneously getting work done. For unemployed parents, it's just one more thing to tackle while looking for a job. It's all a recipe for increased tension within the household, which can instigate a breakdown in the marriage.

However, couples that choose to file for divorce during or immediately after COVID-19 won't have it easy. The economy will still be recovering, which may make common divorce-related activities like selling the marital home challenging.

As a result, many prospective divorcees may choose to postpone the dissolution of their marriages until early 2021. The beginning of the year is typically when divorce filings spike anyways, so if the COVID-19 pandemic compounds on the post-holiday divorce rate, divorce lawyers may find themselves very busy come the New Year.

At Simon Law Group, PLLC, we offer high-quality divorce services to our clients. To learn more about how we can help you navigate your divorce, contact us online or via phone at (631) 237-9525.