Divorce Rates Rise with Coronavirus Isolation; Divorce Court Cases Experience Delays

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing people around the world to stay at home for weeks. For many families, this alteration in their daily routines may have long-lasting consequences.  

Officials in China have observed a significant spike in the number of couples applying for divorce, citing “too much time spent together due to quarantine rules” as the main reason for the increase. Operating with reduced staff during the crisis, registry offices simply cannot process the growing number of applications. In one jurisdiction, officials decided to limit the number of applications that can be filed per day. 

While China may now have the spread of coronavirus under control, it may be too late to restore the marriages that were destroyed during the crisis.

The statistics are quite telling. The Dazhou marriage registry office, in the Sichuan Province, received 300 divorce applications in less than 20 days. According to one local official, “The divorce rate [in the district] has soared compared to before [the coronavirus outbreak]. . . Young people are spending a lot of time at home. They tend to get into heated arguments because of something petty and rush into getting a divorce.”  

Though statistics about divorce in the times of coronavirus are currently not available in the U.S., we are certainly observing a heightened tension level among divorcing couples.  

It is common knowledge that high-stress situations can push unstable relationships over the edge. The divorce rate increased after crises like Hurricane Katrina and 9-11, and the coronavirus outbreak may have similar consequences. On the other hand, for couples in unstable relationships, being unable to talk about their marital problems with a therapist or a friend, due to quarantine rules, can have disastrous consequences for the marriage. 

6 Ways Coronavirus May Affect Ongoing Divorce Proceedings

During the coronavirus outbreak, most offices around the country are working with reduced staff and focusing mainly on emergencies, and courts are not the exception. If your divorce is currently in process, it is helpful to learn how quarantine rules may impact proceedings. At our firm, we are focusing on minimizing delays and moving numerous processes to online platforms. 

  1. Quarantine may cause scheduled negotiation meetings to move to online platforms

    If either one of the parties is quarantined, top-tier law firms are prepared to keep things moving by using teleconferencing and online systems. Documents can easily be uploaded to online platforms, and negotiation meetings can be held via video chat. An experienced high-net-worth divorce attorney can ensure the crisis has a minimal impact on your case. 

  2. Court dates may be postponed

    If one of the spouses cannot attend a scheduled hearing, it is possible to jointly request a postponement. While some courts allow parties to appear by phone, requirements to obtain permission to do so may vary. 

    On the other hand, busy courts have a high potential for spreading coronavirus. Courts all over the country are implementing numerous restrictions, which may also cause delays for couples in the midst of divorce proceedings.

  3. Coronavirus may cause some states to close down their court systems altogether.

    Most states have announced courts will only process emergencies at this time. For instance, the State of Maryland said in a press release, “Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the Maryland state courts will require only essential employees. . . Court locations and offices will be minimally staffed to hear emergency court matters. . . Emergency matters include, but are not limited to, domestic violence petitions, family law emergencies, extreme risk protective orders, bail reviews, juvenile detention hearings, and search warrants. . . All other non-emergency matters scheduled for a court hearing or proceeding will be postponed, and courthouses across the state will remain closed to members of the general public. . .”

    In the State of New York, only emergency services are available at this time. More precisely, our state has just announced that only “essential” cases will be heard to prevent coronavirus contagion. Child support orders and child protection cases are considered “essential” in New York.

    When it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court, for the first time in over a century, it has postponed hearings for two weeks. Meanwhile, the California Supreme Court has decided to conduct hearings remotely. In the case of other California courts, several counties have closed down most courts for two weeks. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “San Francisco is postponing jury trials in most civil cases for 90 days, while Alameda County has ordered an eight-week delay in civil trials and some criminal trials.”  

    For information about court closures and hearing postponements in other states, check here.

  4. Private judges may be in higher demand than usual 

    Not long ago, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie hired a private judge to hear their divorce case. Though their main objective was to keep the press out of the courtroom, opting for a private judge can have many advantages for high-net-worth couples negotiating a divorce during the coronavirus epidemic. Besides ensuring confidentiality, hiring a private judge can speed up the divorce process when public courts are overwhelmed by their caseloads. Catering to celebrities and Wall Street millionaires, our firm often works with New York private judges.

  5. Economic losses due to coronavirus may impact a spouse’s ability to make support payments

    A spouse who is experiencing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus downturn may be able to negotiate a deal to reflect their new financial situation. With the help of an experienced divorce attorney, you may reach a new agreement while your businesses and investments suffer due to the current market crisis.  

  6. Coronavirus may impact child visitation and shared custody schedules

    When children of divorced parents must be quarantined, in which home should they stay? The short answer is, the child should stay where their presence is less likely to help spread the virus. For example, a father who is over 60 is part of an at-risk population and should stay away from a child who might be sick. On the other hand, if a child has got COVID-19, one can refer to custody agreements, which usually detail where they should stay in case of sickness.  

    If your ex is still going to the office or attending public gatherings and you think he or she may be putting your children at risk, you need to consult with your attorney regarding the best course of action. 

Although nobody likes to plan for the worst, these are complicated times. The coronavirus outbreak is having an enormous impact on divorcing couples all over the U.S. Consult with a seasoned high-net-worth divorce attorney to learn how to minimize risks for you and your loved ones.