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Will there really be a rush to divorce post-pandemic?

Despite the hype, here are a few reasons why I don't think everyone is running for the exits

Feelin’ better, now that we’re throughYou’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, Baby you’re no good

Couples in quarantine face challenges they’ve never experienced before. (Shutterstock photo)

As I watched the Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of my Voice documentary recently, I could not help but think how many spouses are singing this song of hers to themselves after months of quarantine lockdown.

I am a New York-based divorce lawyer with a Masters degree in Social Work and a married, working mom of elementary school children, who relies on my kids’ grandparents for regular childcare. I, like so many, am still in quarantine (without grandparents). So, I get every joke about divorce right now.

There have been some truly hilarious memes about divorce attorneys waiting eagerly to file new divorces on behalf of fed-up spouses when the COVID-19 crisis passes.

There is some suggestion that the divorce rate spiked in China when they emerged from their lockdown

But, I disagree. I do not think I will be so busy filing new divorces for clients – not just yet. I do not think that there will be a rush on divorce filings even though court systems throughout the country are opening up and we are all singing “you’re no good, you’re no good” in our heads to our spouses.

Here is why:

We are still in the middle of a pandemic. There is an untold amount of uncertainty – about health, employment, wealth, debts, the real estate market, childcare, elder care, summer, school, air travel, restaurants etc. When will this be over? No one knows. And if it feels over, who says that there won’t be the resurgence that sends us all scattering back to our homes for round two? No one. We do not know what will happen.

I often describe my job to people as being a change agent. I am either effectuating a change someone wanted (the spouse spearheading the divorce) or helping someone process that change is coming, whether expected or not (when the spouse is blindsided by the other’s request for a divorce). I explain that change is good. Change forces us to evolve, grow, and learn, whether we want it or not. The end of a divorce can be the beginning of so much good.

However, I do not think most reasonable, semi-sane people will invite more change into their lives in the middle of this pandemic. There is too much mayhem already. Divorce only adds to the change and detracts from any stability you might have been able to create in your current COVID existence.

It is too expensive right now to divide up assets. I often tell people that New York City real estate will make or break a relationship (romantic or business) – the end of a lease has destroyed many a business and romantic relationship. But, now it’s COVID-19 that will make or break a relationship. As the ethereal marriage counselor Esther Perel describes, “COVID-19 is the great relationship accelerator.”  

Dating is not possible. Let’s be real, when people get divorced, they are usually ready to reenter the dating pool, explore their sexuality, and invest in their erotic lives again. This pandemic has clearly put an end to that. If the first kiss is now taboo then what’s the point of getting divorced? You might as well stick with what you have in quarantine. Maybe you’ll come out as a couple stronger than ever; maybe you won’t, but, I think, either way, people will stick with what they’ve got rather than throw their families into turmoil in the middle of a pandemic for an elicit first kiss.

In fact, I think there may be more than a few couples who are using this time to rediscover one another. For instance, spouses may understand better now “what she does all day” in a way that was impossible before we all moved our work, social, familial lives home in with us. Marriage counselors are operating remotely, so why not consider counseling now?

Couples who may have been able to avoid one another have not been able to do that over these last few months, and, I believe, some who might have otherwise fallen at my doorstep will instead capitalize on this unique time to call marriage counselors and put in the work to rekindle their relationship and come out stronger. That doesn’t mean my favorite joke of the pandemic so far isn’t still: “If there’s a baby boom in nine months, it’ll consist entirely of first-born children.”(@Winston_chang) (So maybe there will be more custody cases involving unmarried quarantining couples instead of divorces?)

Only time will tell what this pandemic will mean to our current state of family. In the meantime, rock out to some Linda Ronstadt, who, incidentally, never married!

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