What Does the Data Actually Tell Us About COVID Divorces?
In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the months trudged on, there was considerable opinion that marital relationships and family dynamics would be adversely affected. Now that the worst of the crisis seems to be over and we are returning to normal life, what does the data actually show about how the coronavirus influenced divorce rates?
During the pandemic, married couples nationwide dealt with the stress of working from home in confined spaces while juggling childcare duties, homeschooling and the everyday trauma of navigating through an international crisis. Many of us saw couples split up or confront very difficult crossroads.
But contrary to what many people predicted, divorce rates decreased in several states during 2020. The Bowling Green State University Center for Family and Demographic Research analyzed data from Florida, New Hampshire, Missouri and Oregon for the first several months after lockdowns went into effect. Researchers observed year-to-year declines in the divorce rate for each state, and also saw divorces initially decrease in Arizona, though they later rebounded. The research team estimated that if the declines seen in its data were consistent at the national level, there would be 191,053 fewer divorces in the United States during 2020 than in 2019.
What the Bowling Green report does not tell us is why the divorce rates fell in the studied states. An optimistic theory is that the pandemic brought married couples closer together, allowing them to reconnect and strengthen their bonds. There is some evidence to support this idea. The American Family Survey, conducted by an election-law think tank at Brigham Young University, found that 58 percent of adults surveyed said the coronavirus pandemic made them appreciate their partner more, while 51 percent said they deepened their commitment to their marriage.
At the same time, connecting the decreased divorce rate to happier marriages is likely too rosy of an explanation. Divorce is expensive, and several factors particular to the pandemic made the process even more complex. Court closures and delays, fluctuating real estate prices, job layoffs, the inability to travel and the day-to-day realities of caring for children added layers of complication to asset division, child custody, alimony and other divorce-related matters. Couples on the brink of divorce may have simply delayed initiating the process until a return to normalcy, rather than calling off the divorce altogether. The 2021 divorce rate may give us a better picture of the pandemic’s effects on marriage.
The divorce and family law attorneys at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. in Melville, New York assist Long Island residents with all matters related to separation and divorce. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online.