Divorce During COVID: Are More Marriages Really Ending?

Divorce is on the rise. Marriages are crumbling. These are the messages some media reports delivered in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s easy to believe this is true, particularly with the many challenges families have faced during shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. Stress has reached all-time highs for many married couples who have had to deal with financial hardships, job loss, and children staying home for virtual schooling.

The situation is not as dire as one might think. Although The Daily Mail reported, “Divorce rates in America soar by 34% during the COVID-19 pandemic…” this article was based on a 34% increase in one company’s online divorce agreement sales. The same article cited the results of an April 25, 2020 survey of just 734 people who were in serious relationships at the time, 31% of whom reported that the quarantine had harmed their relationships. These numbers may be disheartening, but they do not paint a clear picture of divorce rates in the U.S. at the time of the coronavirus.

Let’s take a closer look at divorce and marriage rates and how COVID-19 has affected them.

Divorce & Marriage Rates During the Coronavirus

A Bowling Green State University study found that divorce and marriage rates actually declined in several states. The study was based on data released by five states: Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Oregon, and New Hampshire. Researchers compared monthly statistics from 2020 against marriage and divorce counts from 2018 and 2019.

The results:

  • All five states experienced an initial decline in marriages of at least 20%. Marriage rates in Arizona and New Hampshire rebounded but continued to decline in Oregon, Florida, and Missouri.
  • In Florida, there were about 30% fewer marriages than would have been expected based on data from 2018 and 2019.
  • Early in the pandemic, divorces declined in all five states. Divorces rebounded in Arizona, actually increasing by about 2% based on previous years, but continued to decline in the other four states.
  • Divorces declined by about 22% in Missouri and 36% in New Hampshire in March, April, and May of 2020.
  • In all, there were about 21,000 fewer marriages and 16,000 fewer divorces in these 5 states than would have been expected based on statistics from 2018 and 2019.

Divorce rates in these five states do not guarantee similar results in other states, but they do offer a chance to consider how the pandemic has affected couples in different regions.

Why the Change?

There is a lot of speculation as to why divorce and marriage rates declined in the first months of the pandemic, and why Arizona saw a slight increase in divorce from previous years.

For example:

  • While courts were closed at the beginning of the pandemic, it was impossible for couples to complete divorce proceedings.
  • Even as courts reopened, divorcing couples faced delays in having their cases heard and orders issued.
  • Some couples may have decided not to file simply to avoid the added stress and expense during already difficult times.
  • On the other hand, some couples may have decided to separate or divorce because the pandemic put too much stress on their relationships.
  • Thousands of people were forced to delay wedding ceremonies and receptions in compliance with stay-at-home and social distancing orders.

COVID’s Effect on Marriages

Every marriage is different. Some couples may have been brought closer together during the pandemic, while others experienced hardships that forced them apart. At the Law Offices of H. William Edgar, we are here to offer support and counsel regardless of your situation, needs, and concerns. We have focused exclusively on family law matters in Southern California since 2004 and are known for our personal attention and commitment to results. Despite the complexities COVID has presented to married couples everywhere, we are prepared to deliver the high-quality counsel you deserve every step of the way.

Call (888) 251-9618 today to learn more about our firm and how we can help you. You can also read our blog, California, COVID-19 & Divorce: What You Should Know, for more insight on this topic.

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