Pandemic May Reverse Decades of Declining Divorce Rates


It is often cited as common knowledge that approximately half of all U.S. marriages will end in divorce. That figure was close to accurate in the 1970s, but divorce rates have been slowly yet steadily declining since then. They have been on a downward trajectory for decades.

But will that trend continue with more families staying at home, which is adding constant stress to the lives of most Americans? The pandemic is far from over, and data gathering takes time. But the evidence seen so far has many people concerned about a spike in divorce rates.

Excessive time in quarantine

Earlier this year, when most states had stay-at-home orders in place, couples suddenly found themselves spending endless time with one another – often while also taking care of children. For couples who had already been struggling before, this new reality likely made it impossible to ignore or escape from the problems they had been trying to avoid.

In other cases, couples who hadn’t been married for very long may have discovered that they weren’t as compatible as they once thought. In still other cases, quarantine created or exacerbated stressors that are often linked with divorce, including:

  • Job loss and money issues
  • Spousal illness
  • Differences in parenting styles and philosophies
  • Disagreements over the division of household labor
  • Intimacy issues
  • General lack of hope about the future

Early signs of a divorce spike

Shortly after stay-at-home orders were lifted in many states, family law attorneys began to report significant increases in the number of inquiries they received regarding divorce consultations. And this summer, a website called Legal Templates saw a 34 percent increase in sales of divorce agreement forms, compared with the same time last year.

As we head into winter 2020, when cold and flu season starts and many Americans are stuck indoors due to weather, the problems that occurred earlier this year could ramp up again. For this and other reasons, it seems likely that the divorce spike will continue.

What to do now?

If you are suffering from marital problems and find yourself considering divorce, please understand that you are not alone and that many circumstances are simply out of your control. Take advantage of whatever mental health resources you have available to you, and work to get clarity on your relationship.