It’s common knowledge that nearly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. We are curious if COVID has impacted this statistic at all? In fact, it has, but it has been more of a roller coaster effect than a steady incline or decline. We even wonder further- is the pandemic saving marriages or causing more divorce?
The beginning of the pandemic saw a quick surge in divorce cases, with isolation leading many couples who were already planning to part ways to do so faster. It wasn’t just in the United States, either. The UK, China, Sweden, and other nations also reported a sharp increase in divorce cases at the start of the pandemic.
The pandemic essentially created a recipe for disaster for couples who were already struggling. Worries about job security and health coupled with spending more time together led many married couples to call it quits faster than they would have had the pandemic never happened.
As the months went on, however, many couples started putting divorce on the backburner. Uncertainty over finances and courts temporarily closing across the nation is the biggest reason for the pause. This led to a decline in divorce rates for the latter half of 2020. In some counties, like Los Angeles, the decline was as steep as 17% or higher.
Surprisingly, some couples have actually credited the pandemic with saving their marriage because it forced them to work through their problems instead of avoiding them. Pre-pandemic, many couples were covering up their issues with work, hobbies, and other relationships. The pandemic forced them to start spending time together, doing things many hadn’t done in years, like going for walks and playing board games. Social distancing guidelines had many couples rethinking how they spent their time together, and some of it actually had a positive impact.
Unfortunately, the pandemic also brought about an increase in domestic violence, with victims having less access to assistance because they were so isolated. Some marriages that were on the rocks prior to the pandemic saw an increase in their problems. They only waited to file for divorce because they couldn’t afford it, or the courts were closed.
Once vaccines became widely available, divorce rates started slowly increasing again. The middle to end of 2021 has seen the sharpest increase, with some counties reporting an increase as high as 20% compared to the same time last year. It’s not yet clear whether the increase is due to a backlog in cases from courts being closed for several months, or if the pandemic caused more marital problems for couples, leading more of them to file for divorce.
What is clear is that the pandemic has caused quite a few ups and downs for marriages, much like it has for many other aspects of life, including the economy, employment, and the healthcare system. With so much uncertainty still surrounding the pandemic and when it will finally end, it’s likely that the roller coaster of divorce rates will continue for the foreseeable future.