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How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected divorce rates in the United States?
Many predicted that the stress from quarantine, financial troubles, and children staying home from school would result in a higher divorce rate during or immediately after the pandemic, but has that turned out to be true?
So far, it depends on where you look…
The pandemic’s impact on divorce rates nationwide has been significant, with an even greater impact on divorce rates in some southern states, but it hasn’t resulted in more divorce filings in Horry and Georgetown Counties.
Not yet, anyway…
Experts and divorce attorneys anticipated a rise in divorce rates during the pandemic. So far, they have been right, at least when you look at the COVID pandemic’s impact on divorce rates nationwide.
From March through June of 2020, the number of people filing for divorce nationwide increased by 34% compared to the same months in 2019. The highest number of cases came on April 13 – just weeks after many states began to impose lockdowns in response to the pandemic:
The number of people looking for divorces was 34 percent higher from March through June compared to 2019, according to new data collected by Legal Templates, a company that provides legal documents.
The combination of stress, unemployment, financial strain, death of loved ones, illness, homeschooling children, mental illnesses, and more has put a significant strain on relationships.
The data showed that 31 percent of the couples admitted lockdown has caused irreparable damage to their relationships.
Interest in separation during quarantine peaked on April 13 – just about 15-20 days into when the vast majority of states began lockdowns.
What is causing the increase in divorce and separations? In a word, stress. Some of the factors contributing to marital strife during the pandemic include:
Many newly divorcing couples have acknowledged that the extra time spent together coupled with the added stresses of the pandemic and lockdowns has damaged their relationships to the point where they feel that they just need to escape.
The peak for couples interested in separation on April 13 of this year highlights the effect of quarantine on divorce rates – just weeks after many states announced lockdowns, there was a 57% increase over the numbers from February 13:
Interest in separation during quarantine peaked on April 13 – a 57% increase compared to Feb 13, 2020. That’s just 15-20 days into when the vast majority of states began official quarantines.
It’s possible that divorces spiked as people entered what mental health and human service professionals refer to as the “disillusionment phase” of the Phases of Disaster – the time when optimism turns to discouragement, stress heightens, and negative reactions often occur.
Who was most likely to seek a divorce during the pandemic? Newlyweds…
The highest number of people seeking a divorce during the pandemic were newlyweds – people who were married in the last five years. The less time married, the higher the chance the couple sought a divorce during the quarantine period:
Our data reveals that 58% of users pursuing a divorce during the COVID-19 pandemic were married within the last five years – a 16% increase from 2019. This indicates that recently married couples were less equipped to deal with the stressors of the COVID-19 virus than mature couples.
However, it was extremely recently married couples (five months or less) that experienced the most devastation.
In 2019, only 11% of users were married for five months or less before purchasing a divorce agreement. During the same time period in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantine, that number nearly doubled to 20%, meaning that a significant number of couples got married between January and March and pursued a divorce in the quarantine period between April and June.
So, overall divorce rates increased nationwide, with newlyweds taking the hardest hit. What about in the southern states?
The COVID pandemic’s impact on divorce rates was the highest in the southern states – two to three times higher than the rest of the country. The highest divorce rates so far have been in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana.
These five states were also among the hardest hit by the pandemic with a higher risk of unemployment and where “roughly 50% of the workforce is employed in ‘high-risk of layoff occupations.’”
If divorce rates increased nationwide, with the highest impact seen in southern states, what has the impact been in South Carolina in Horry and Georgetown Counties?
In Horry and Georgetown Counties, the divorce rate has decreased slightly in the six months since South Carolina’s shutdown:
From March 17, 2019, through September 17, 2019, there were 566 divorces filed in Horry County and 70 in Georgetown County. During that same time this year, there were 514 divorces in Horry County and 67 in Georgetown County.
For one thing, SC courts have been *mostly* closed – although couples could still obtain a no-fault divorce without a court appearance, and the courts have been open to hear emergency matters, many couples who would have filed for divorce have been waiting to get into court and have their cases heard.
It also makes sense that many couples who are considering divorce would hold off as long as they can due to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic – the children may be at home doing remote learning instead of in-class instruction, one or both spouses may have lost their job or they might fear the possibility of a lay-off, and divorce inevitably brings financial uncertainty to couples.
Despite the uncertainty and the initial decrease in divorce filings locally, most divorce lawyers still expect the number of divorces to increase in Horry and Georgetown Counties as the courts reopen and begin to clear crowded dockets, as the economy improves, and as couples begin to reevaluate their relationships post-COVID…
If you are considering separation or divorce, or if you need help enforcing or modifying the terms of a final divorce decree, call your SC divorce attorney at Axelrod and Associates now at 843-353-3449 or send us a message through our website to find out how we can help.
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