Divorce professionals and experts, myself included, predicted an increase in divorce filings during the COVID-19 pandemic. I wrote about this likelihood back in March when stay-at-home orders were put in place. Now, for the first time, we’re getting a look data over the past six months and how this pandemic has impacted marriage rates in America.

According to a survey from LegalTemplates, COVID-19 increased tensions on marriages and negatively impacted many relationships. The online company reports a 34% increase in divorce agreements compared to the same period in 2019. As people were told to work from home and limit travel, families were together more often than ever before. For those with already struggling relationships, this likely increased tension and made them realize they could be happier apart from one another. In addition, pandemic related stressors played a big part in this too. Concerns over quarantine conditions, unemployment, financial strain, death of loved ones, illness, homeschooling children, and mental illnesses spilled over into marriages and relationships. As a collaborative divorce attorney, I have seen similar numbers this year with divorce rates. The research also shows that newlyweds were hit the hardest. The data revealed that 58% of couples who filed these divorce agreements were married within the last five years which is up 16% from numbers gathered in 2019. In addition to being a divorce attorney, I’m also a divorcee. My ex-husband and I divorced in 2015 after only being married a few years. I can easily understand why recently married couples were less equipped to deal with the stressors of COVID-19 versus couples who have been married longer.

Data collected from this survey also finds that couples in southern states, which includes North Carolina, were more likely to seek a divorce. For my collaborative family law practice, AN|R Law, I can speak to these numbers. My firm has seen a significant increase in clients considering separation and divorce, drafting separation agreements, and ultimately filing for divorce. While the numbers certainly point to more people reaching a breaking point in their marriages during the pandemic, in North Carolina it also shows a change in the type and method of divorce. More people are choosing collaborative law, and that’s a good thing. The North Carolina Judicial Branch drastically reduced operations in courthouses throughout the state which means litigated divorce cases were put on the back burner. It created a backlog of cases that sat untouched for months. Many are still waiting for their divorce to be finalized and who knows when that will happen. During this time, more people in North Carolina discovered the concept of negotiation. As a collaborative law attorney, I don’t use the court system with my clients. I use the collaborative process as a legal alternative to court proceedings. Typically, a collaborative divorce costs less and takes less time than a traditional divorce. Couples are able to quickly agree to a settlement and then move on with their lives while spending less money on representation.

Nationwide, many people don’t even know about this healthier way to divorce. With the help of a collaborative law firm, like AN|R Law, my legal team can draft separation agreements, determine custody, and distribute assets without using the court system. This process keeps spouses and their children out of the courtroom. As a child of divorce, I know firsthand what negative impacts the court system can have on children. It’s so important to keep children out of that system because it’s not meant for them. It can cause unnecessary conflict, turmoil, brokenness. In fact, the LegalTemplates survey shows an increase in divorcing couples with children. It found that during the COVID-19 pandemic period thus far, 45% of couples that completed the online company’s divorce agreement had children under the age of 18. This represents a 5% increase from the same period the previous year. While the increase percentage many not sound extreme, imagine what that 5% truly represents. Each child involved in a litigated divorce could have a better life if their parents chose the collaborative divorce method. I detail shocking statistics in my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, that show how children of divorce are impacted later in life. These findings show complications in personal relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression, including:

  • 200% of children are more likely to get divorced if one spouse is from a divorced home
  • 50% more likely to get divorced when one spouse is from a divorced home
  • 18.9% of children living with one parent have a drug or alcohol problem
  • 18.8% of children of divorce suffered from a lifetime of alcohol dependence
  • 30% increase in likelihood of suicide attempts by adult children of divorce

Through my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, and my podcast, Divorce, Healthy! with Ashley-Nicole Russell, I’ve spent years working to spread awareness about collaborative divorce options and how this method can help families divorce in a better and healthier way. I’ve realized though, that writing and speaking on this topic isn’t going to be enough to reach all the people who need to read and hear about it. That’s why I got together with a few other collaborative law attorneys across the state of North Carolina and founded the North Carolina Collaborative Attorney Network (NC-CANN). As a founding member, I’m honored to spearhead this group’s mission to share the benefits of collaborative law statewide. NC-CAN was founded to help ensure that couples in North Carolina facing the crisis of divorce are aware of the collaborative divorce option and to ensure that they can find attorneys who can provide the highest quality collaborative process. The group is comprised of qualified and committed collaborative practitioners who have been instrumental to developing collaborative and are dedicated to helping families find the resources to divorce without destruction.

It’s vital that couples considering divorce now during the COVID-19 pandemic get the support they need and information regarding collaborative law. As the numbers from LegalTemplate show, divorce rates are increasing due to the pandemic. And, as a divorce culture expert, I have a feeling they will continue to rise for the rest of the year. That said, if more people want to end their marriages, they should be able to find attorneys who aren’t looking to capitalize on their struggle and tension. I truly believe in collaborative law methods and know they can help people live better lives and find happiness after divorce without stepping into an adversarial and volatile courtroom. Please contact me, Ashley-Nicole Russell, at AN|R Law Offices to further discuss divorcing healthy in this time of COVID-19. I can help you, your spouse, and your family live better lives after divorce. Click here to read more about my practice, available collaborative services, the method of divorce, and various locations in North Carolina.