COVID-19 and Its Potential Impact on Divorce and Child Custody

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, families across the country have had to learn to adapt to a new normal. Virtual learning for our children in lieu of physical school, work-from-home initiatives becoming standard in a variety of industries, and more time spent in close proximity to our families in our stir-crazy-inducing quarantine all compound towards higher stress levels and potential unhappiness. While the global pandemic may have brought many partners closer together, and maybe even a newfound sense of love and connection they had been lacking, we cannot forget about the many couples who may feel like they are hitting rock bottom.

Here, the divorce and child custody attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss the impact that coronavirus has left on marriages, child custody and divorce rates across the country.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Divorce Among Couples

If you knew anybody that was planning on getting married in 2020, you have likely heard their anguish and frustration at being unable to plan and enjoy the dream weddings they had poured many hours and dollars into planning. Conversely, many of us who are close to married individuals may have lent a listening ear to them regarding their experiences quarantining with their significant other. For some, it brought a newfound feeling of connection to the relationship; more quality time together may have even saved their marriage. However, for many others, stay-at-home orders for nine months and counting have taken a serious toll on their relationship. 

The statistics do not lie: there has been an increase in divorces across the country since the pandemic began. In March through June of 2020, divorce rates were 34% higher than that of the same period in 2019. Divorce agreements peaked within a month into quarantine, around mid-April, increasing 57% compared to the two months prior. Married individuals most affected by this trend were those who had been married for less than five years, with divorce filings increasing 16% from years past among this group.

COVID-19 May Change Traditional Divorce Proceedings

If you and/or your spouse have decided to proceed with filing for divorce, it is also important to note that your divorce proceedings may vary compared to those of our pre-COVID society. For example, if you and your current spouse have intertwined finances, or are stakeholders in a business, valuation of your business, home and other assets may take longer, as legal entities and organizations each have different levels of restrictions and protocols. 

Additionally, if you both have contributed to your home, you will have to determine the best plan of action on selling your home in a complicated market where real estate is fluctuating. Furthermore, if you have lost your job or had a reduction in your income during this time, a significant decrease in your personal finances may result in adjustments to your divorce agreement, settlement payments and child support if needed. Overall, couples should be prepared to face these complexities, and working with a qualified family law attorney can empower you to navigate them.

COVID-19 Has Adjusted Many Custody Schedules for Divorced Couples

The finances are not the only aspect of family law impacted by the pandemic. While court ordered custody schedules must still generally be followed, custody agreements may need to be reexamined. Whether you are newly separated and in the process of establishing a custody arrangement, or considering changing your current arrangement, this pandemic has brought on a slew of new considerations. For example, if your child has moved to virtual learning and you are the primary caregiver, but your job requires intensive focus and in-office time while your ex-spouse’s does not, you may want to examine your current arrangement to see how to best accommodate your child. If you live a significant distance from your ex-spouse and have been sharing childcare on weekly or bi-weekly schedules, you want to switch to longer periods of time with each parent to minimize the risk of exposure or contamination to others. The arrangements you decide to make for your family will look different from what others choose to do based on your unique situation; discuss any challenges you and your ex-spouse may be experiencing with a child custody attorney.

COVID-19 Could Exacerbate Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Abuse

Individuals who are victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) are put in drastically more unsafe situations with stay-at-home orders. Added stressors caused by COVID-19, such as financial instability and layoffs, could exacerbate unsafe situations within the home. For more information about COVID-19 and its potential impact on families experiencing domestic abuse and IPV, read this article by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) titled “Intimate Partner Violence and Child Abuse Considerations During COVID-19” here.

Seek Divorce & Custody Assistance With the Bel Air Attorneys at Rodier Family Law

COVID-19 has been a rollercoaster for us all. If the past nine months have taken a toll on your marriage, or have complicated aspects of your life that once felt secure, know that you are not alone. Many other couples and parents are struggling with the same issues. At Rodier Family Law, our compassionate team has extensive experience representing our clients through every step of the divorce and/or custody process. To learn how Rodier Family Law can assist you, contact us today.