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Will COVID-19 Lead to a Spike in Divorces?

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Will the fact that Americans are being quarantined with their spouses lead to a spike in divorces across the nation? If people find that being in close quarters with their spouses 24 hours a day drives them crazy, they could be heading to divorce court when the coronavirus pandemic is controlled and life as we know it resumes back to normal. Read on as we explore the theory behind the potential surge in divorce cases that may occur in the upcoming months. But first, we’re going to dig a little deeper into the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the coronavirus (COVID-19) as an infectious disease caused by a “newly discovered coronavirus.” But what is a coronavirus exactly? According to WHO, coronaviruses are a “large family” of viruses that can make humans and animals sick. When a human is infected with a coronavirus, it can cause respiratory infections that range from the common cold to severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19 & Those With Weak Immune Systems

COVID-19 is the latest coronavirus to be discovered and it’s symptoms include fever, fatigue, and a dry cough. However, some people who are infected may experience a sore throat, diarrhea, nasal congestion, and aches and pains. The symptoms of COVID-19 typically start off mild and come on gradually.

While about 80 percent of people will recover from the coronavirus without needing special treatment, 1 out of 6 people who are infected with COVID-19 will have difficulty breathing and will become seriously ill. If someone is elderly or has a serious underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, severe asthma, cancer, heart problems, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, or a serious respiratory condition, they are at an increased risk of developing a serious illness if infected with COVID-19.

March 19, 2020: CA Residents Ordered to Stay Home

On March 19, 2020, the California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health ordered all people living in California to stay at their homes, except for people who work in specific occupations that are critical for the state’s infrastructure.

The Order was issued by Sonia Y. Angell, MD, MPH to protect the health of Californians. The California Department of Public Health’s goal was to have everyone be consistent across the State of California to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus. “Our goal is simple, we want to bend the curve, and disrupt the spread of the virus,” wrote Angell.

What could Californians leave their homes for?

  • Getting gasoline
  • Picking items up at pharmacies
  • Buying groceries
  • Buying food at farmer’s markets, food banks, and convenience stores
  • Buying food at take-out and delivery restaurants
  • Conducting transactions at banks

Which activities were barred?

  • Dining at restaurants
  • Going to bars and nightclubs
  • Going to entertainment venues
  • Working out at gyms and health clubs
  • Attending public events and gatherings
  • Going to convention centers
  • Receiving services at hair and nail salons

As of March 19, 2020, Californians’ lives came to a grinding halt. Unless a husband or wife was designated an “essential worker,” they had to stay home and if both spouses were non-essential workers, they’d have to stay home together.

The “essential workforce,” which was NOT ordered to stay home, included healthcare providers, dentists, social workers, hospital and lab personnel, medical facility workers, manufacturers, technicians, medical equipment distributors, and distributors of toilet paper and paper towels (no surprise there) and cleaning and sanitation supplies.

While millions of Californians were designated as essential workers, millions more were not that fortunate. As a result, many spouses who were accustomed to spending 9 plus hours a day apart (even longer if they had long commutes in LA traffic) were suddenly thrown together and often with their children who were doing online school. A recipe for disaster? It’s very possible.

Spouses Driving Each Other Insane

On March 31, 2020, Bloomberg Businessweek featured an article entitled, “China’s Divorce Spike Is a Warning to Rest of Locked-Down World,” which admittedly, got a lot of divorce attorneys thinking about COVID-19 and the effects the quarantine was having on couples and families in California.

The article started off sharing a true story of a woman named Ms. Wu, a housewife in her 30s who lived in southern Guandong province. Ms. Wu spent nearly two months in isolation with her unemployed husband. The couple fought constantly. In regard to the breakdown of her marriage, Ms. Wu rattled off a list of common irritants that we see in our divorce firm, such as too little money, too much screen time, and an uneven split of child and household duties.

While China publishes its divorce statistics annually, the media reported on a spike in divorce filings as married couples emerged from spending weeks together under government-mandated lockdowns designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Incidents of domestic violence also multiplied. The trend may be an ominous warning for couples in the U.S. and elsewhere who are in the early stages of isolating at home: If absence makes the heart grow fonder, the opposite might be true of too much time spent together in close quarters, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Steve Li, a divorce lawyer in Shanghai, told Businessweek that his caseload increased by 25 percent since the lockdown was eased in the middle of March. He said that infidelity used to be the # 1 reason why clients came to him, adding that “people have time to have love affairs when they’re not at home.”

But after people were forced to spend two months together indoors, the more time married couples spent together, the angrier they were with each other. Of his new cases since COVID-19, Li said, “People need space. Not just for couples – this applies to everybody.”


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