COVID-19 Divorce Rates From an Unlikely Source
LegalTemplates is an online service that sells do-it-yourself legal templates for court filings. Recently, they’ve claimed to have uncovered some “data-driven insights” into the impact the global pandemic is having on American marriages.
They believe that the data they uncovered on COVID-19 divorce rates won’t become available from any government, or scientific research team for several years to come.
That got my attention.
The bottom line? They’ve seen a 34% increase in the purchase of their divorce template.
Are We at a Point Where COVID-19 Divorce Rates can be Determined?
I’ve already expressed my skepticism around this issue when Bloomberg reported a divorce spike in March after couples emerged from weeks of strict lockdowns that were mandated to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Allegedly, the cities of Dazhou, in Sichuan province, and Xian, in central China, had both reported, “record-high numbers of divorce filings in early March, leading to long backlogs at government offices.”
According to a state media report, a harried scene was described in Hunan province, where clerks “didn’t even have time to drink water” because so many couples were queued up in line, ready to file for divorce.
Will this also happen in the US when most municipal courts eventually re-open?
What Does LegalTemplates Know That Nobody Else Does?
They claim to have revealed “shocking insights about divorce during COVID-19:”
- The COVID-19 quarantine destroyed marriages in less than 3 weeks
- Newlyweds were hit hardest by Covid-19 compared to more seasoned married couples.
- Couples in southern states were far more likely to pursue a divorce.
- The rate of divorcing couples with children increased compared to last year.
- The number of life insurance policies and payouts required to satisfy divorce settlements increased.
Here’s a Summary of Their Data:
- COVID-19 quarantine destroyed marriages in less than a month. Apparently, inquiries in purchasing separation agreements from LegalTemplates peaked on April 13, 2020, with nearly a 60% increase compared to Feb 13, 2020, just 2 months prior.
That’s barely a few weeks after most states enacted stay-at-home orders on March 25.
- Nearly 60% of customers pursuing a divorce during the pandemic were married within the last five years. In 2019, only 11% of users married for five months or less, purchased a divorce agreement template. However, during the same time period in 2020 (during the COVID-19 lockdown) that number nearly doubled to 20%. That’s a significant increase from last year.
This data suggests that newlyweds facing COVID are less resilient than older couples.
- The more recently you were married, the more likely you are to file for divorce. 20% were married in 2020, 9% were married in 2019, 9% were married in 2018, 7% were married in 2017, 7% were married in 2016, and only 6% were married in 2015.
Do the COVID-19 Divorce Rates Tell a Story About the South?
- Per capita, most of their divorce agreement templates were sold in the South. The Midwest, West, and finally the Northeast trailed by comparison. The Southern COVID-19 divorce rates were two to three times higher than other regions in the USA.
- The southern states with the highest divorce rates are…Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana.
- Economic uncertainty is highly correlated with divorce. The above 5 States are also economically, the hardest by COVID-19. According to a study, in all five of these southern states, nearly half of the labor force is employed in “high-risk of layoff occupations.”
More Families Are Breaking up in 2020 than Last Year
- More divorces with children. 45% of couples that completed the LegalTemplates divorce agreement had children under the age of 18. This represents a stunning 5% increase from the same period in 2019.
The LegalTemplates Data Revealed more COVID-19 Divorce Stats:
- 23% of couples were joint homeowners, and 28% shared vehicle ownership.
- 17% of couples have a joint bank account, and 14% are solely responsible for any joint debts or debts of their partner.
- One of the divorcing spouses will pursue a legal name change once quarantine is over in 38% of marriages, an 18% decrease from last year.
- 6% of couples had at least one spouse who was an active member of the US Military.
- One partner is required to pay alimony in 12% of divorces with the average amount of spousal support requested coming in at $1,128 per month.
- 2% of divorcing clients were awaiting the birth of a child… a 100% increase from 2019.
COVID-19 Divorce Rates Show Tremendous Stress on Couples Married 5 Years or Less
LegalTemplates is confident that the COVID-19 crisis has increased divorce rates across the USA.
And young couples, (couples with young children and newlyweds), are particularly stressed.
The social, financial, emotional, and psychological stressors from COVID-19 are still unfolding and many are asking; how bad can it get?
New Research on Stressed Young Couples
A recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology examined the resilience of over 400 newlywed couples. The chief finding was that no matter the source of the stress, spouses who experienced greater external stress had lower overall marital satisfaction than couples with fewer external problems.
Unfortunately, external stressors will be abundant for the foreseeable future.
The Problem With External Stress
Dr. Paula Pietromonaco is a social psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, and the principal investigator for the Growth in Early Marriage Project.
Her research examines how people think, feel, and behave in the context of their intimate relationships.
Paula wrote a recent analysis describing the potential impact of COVID-19 on relationships for the American Psychologist, a publication of the American Psychological Association.
Paula’s research also focuses on how one spouse’s behavior can influence the other’s ability to regulate their emotions. She examines how these relationship processes impact physical health and mental health as the couple moves through time together. Couples therapists call this co-regulation.
“When couples have external stress, it affects how they interact with each other. Interactions become less constructive. People are likelier to blame their partner.” Dr. Paula Pietromonaco.
Can COVID-19 Divorce Stats be Reversed?
- The importance of softened start-ups. Complexity is a likely contributor to COVID-19 divorce rates. Couples are grappling with very important decisions about school, work, and family routines. When partners are in conflict, Dr. Pietromonaco stressed the importance of starting conversations with what she called a “soft opening.”
Like Gottman, she emphasized the importance of raising issues in a way that “shows you want to communicate it, thinking about how we can negotiate without blaming a family member or partner.”
- Domestic Violence has risen nearly 10% during the first 2 months of lockdown. When already troubled couples are in an endless lockdown, tensions can mount into violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has experienced a dramatic uptick in reported calls, texts, and online chats from spouses seeking help. These calls for help increased 9% to more than 62,000 in the period from mid-March to mid-May 2020, compared with the same 2-month period in 2019.
What the Public Needs to Know about COVID-19 Divorce Rates
Your marriage can survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
We all have an innate need for belonging, and we’re much more likely to pull through when we feel emotionally connected to the people we love (Pietromonaco & Collins, 2017).
Although your marriage is likely to be your primary source of support, don’t forget to also stay connected with friends and family (e.g., through Zoom, phone calls, snail mail, text, or email).
These family and friendship bonds can help you thrive during these uncertain times (Keneski et al., 2018).
Final Thoughts On Our Shared Predicament
We know that having supportive close relationships, including marital relationships, can help you manage stress and pull through. These relationships reduce health risks as much or more than well-known healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, regular exercise, and quitting smoking, (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010; Pietromonaco & Beck, 2019; Pietromonaco & Collins, 2017.)
In other words, closer intimate bonds will protect you and your family during this difficult time. People from your past may reach out to you from out of the blue. Keep good boundaries, and be open and transparent to your partner.
If you have adult children who are just starting out a gift of intensive online couples therapy could be a life-changing experience. Not only for their marriage but to also dramatically help your grandchildren succeed in life.
Couples who don’t wish to be included in the COVID-19 divorce rate are working hard with us to maintain and deepen their emotional bonds. These couples are making an investment in their longer-term emotional and physical health with science-based couples therapy right from home, online.
Get Science-Based Couples Therapy Right From Home Today…
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith TB, & Layton JB. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Medicine, 7, e1000316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
Elizabeth Keneski, Lisa A. Neff, Timothy J. Loving (2017) The Importance of a Few Good Friends: Perceived Network Support Moderates the Association Between Daily Marital Conflict and Diurnal Cortisol. Social Psychological and Personality Science: pp. 962-971.
Nguyen, T. P., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2020). When poor communication does and does not matter: The moderating role of stress. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(6), 676–686. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000643
Pietromonaco, P. R., & Beck, L. A. (2019). Adult attachment and physical health. Current Opinion in Psychology, 25, 115–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.04.004
Pietromonaco, P. R., & Collins, N. L. (2017). Interpersonal Mechanisms Linking Close Relationships to Health. American Psychologist, 72(6), 531–542. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000129