Are the pandemic and lock-downs increasing divorces and separations? A journalistic look
Quarantine life seems so idyllic on Instagram or Facebook: baking bread, family movie nights, and board games. If you ignore toilet paper rationing, staying at home doesn't seem so bad. But in real life, families are under tremendous stress. Many have lost jobs, health, and the face to face support of family and friends. Marriage is a complicated endeavor under the best of circumstances. But faced with record levels of stress and time trapped at home, some relationships begin to crack. As COVID-19 cases top three million in the United States and 75,000 in North Carolina alone, it looks like there's no end in sight for quarantine life. Does this mean we'll be facing a record number of divorces and separations in the months to come?
North Carolina divorces and separations
In 2018, North Carolina saw 31,913 divorces. With a divorce rate of 3.1 divorces per 1,000 people, North Carolina's divorce rate is higher than the national average of 2.9. Divorce statistics are cumulative and don't occur at a single moment in time. As a result, the divorce rate changes based on how long you've been married. Half of all divorces will happen in the first ten years of marriage, but that doesn't tell the entire story:
- Approximately 10% of marriages will end in divorce within the first five years.
- Up to an additional 10% of marriages will end within the first ten years of marriage.
- Only about 30% of marriages will ultimately end in divorce.
- 79% of separations will end in divorce.
- Couples who reunite after separating are separated two years on average.
We don't yet know if separations and divorces will increase as a result of the pandemic because many practical considerations may be keeping couples together for now.
Practical considerations of divorce
Right now, it can be challenging to separate or divorce as a practical matter. Under North Carolina law, you must be separated for one year to obtain a divorce. While you do not need paperwork to officially separate, it happens as soon as one of you moves out of the former marital home and you begin living separate and apart with the intention of it becoming permanent. You may not live in the same home and still be separated.
As we work to keep outside contacts low, there are some things you and your partner should discuss and consider separately as well:
- How will you search for and move to a new home?
- How will you sell a marital home in the current real estate market?
- How will each of you meet with your attorneys and file paperwork with the court?
- Should you move kids between two households during a pandemic?
- Is any of this even financially feasible if one of you has lost a job?
If you'd like to discuss any practical or legal considerations involved in separation or divorce during a pandemic, give me a call at 919-719-2785 or contact me online. As an experienced North Carolina family law attorney, I'm happy to help you find the right solution for your family during this stressful time.