In the 1980s 50% of all marriages ended in divorce. Since the 1990s, however, the divorce rate has been decreasing. In 1990 6.3 out of every 1,000 people residing in Florida filed for divorce and by 2018 it was down to 3.6 out of every 1,000 people.i The question on everyone’s mind is what will happen in 2020–2021 following the COVID-19 pandemic and whether the divorce rate will continue to trend downward. Many experts believe that divorce filings will soar.
In March 2020, divorce filings in China surged as people began to emerge from government-mandated lockdowns. The cities of Xian and Dazhou reported a record number of divorce filings in March. A Shanghai divorce lawyer indicated that his caseload increased by 25% after the city’s lockdown.ii Saudi Arabia also saw increases in divorces during the lockdown and reported a 30% increase in divorces during that time period.iii
Various websites in the United States that are focused on divorce have recently had hundreds of thousands of hits.iv Additionally, searches for resources on divorce increased 32% from March to May compared with the same months the previous year.v In an informal email survey by a relationship therapist, 31% of couples responded that the quarantine has harmed their relationship.vi
The “global financial and health crisis has created an enormous amount of economical and interpersonal difficulties for relationships” that will inevitably result in more divorces.vii Additionally, many believe that the pandemic has caused people to re-evaluate their mortality and make changes in their lives. As with all life-altering experiences, people are re-evaluating how they want to spend the rest of their lives.viii
Is your law firm prepared for the likely surge in divorce filings?
Given Florida’s return to business as usual, you may be considering going back to in-person mediations. Regardless of Covid-19, one thing to consider is whether ZOOM mediation is a better fit for your client. ZOOM mediations can be more productive because individuals are in the comfort of their own home, more relaxed, sometimes with their dog or cat sitting on their lap, and without the fear that they would accidentally see their spouse. Consider your client’s level of anxiety when deciding whether to schedule a live or virtual mediation.
i See CDC Guidelines. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm
ii (Bloomberg Businessweek, March 31, 2020)
iii (www.aa.com.tr, May 5, 2020)
iv See Lina Guillen, editor of Nolo.com said that Nolo and its sister sites, DivorceNet.com and Lawyers.com
v (www.ny1.com, Vivian Lee, July 1, 2020).
vi (USA Today, Maria Puente, June 2, 2020)
vii (www.Bizjournals.com, Travis Krepelka, May 7, 2020)
viii (www.abcnews.go.com, Andy Fies, April 17, 2020)