COVID-19 Pandemic: Divorce is on the Rise
The COVID-19 crisis has profoundly impacted many aspects of Canadian life: the economy, employment, health care, social norms, as well as recreation, entertainment and travel opportunities … the list is virtually innumerable. But of course the most personal and day-to-day impact has been felt by individuals, in their family dynamics and interpersonal relationships.
Government-imposed physical distancing mandates, self-isolation measures, stay-at-home orders and repeated lockdowns have especially taken their toll: After nearly a year of these kinds of restrictive measures, marriages and common-law unions are especially buckling under the pressure, it seems.
Rocky relationships were likely the first to feel the effects, since existing cracks may have widened over the past 10 months of the outbreak. New frontiers of marital discontent may have arisen from the sudden halt in normal routines and lifestyles; for example, those super-couples who were accustomed to spending 12 hours a day apart, each at their high-power jobs, may find the adjustment to a relatively slower-placed, dual work-from-home paradigm to be jarring and difficult.
But even the most solid relationship bond can start to fray when placed under the microscope formed by unexpected stressors caused by COVID-19. These include constant togetherness, financial pressures caused by job losses, caring for vulnerable elderly parents, and new challenges that arise from managing distance learning for kids – to name a just a few.
So how have these varied relationship stresses reflected in the divorce statistics?
Well, it may come as no surprise, but breakups and divorces appear to be on the rise around the world, as numerous articles in the global media attest. It has been reported in news outlets in China and Sweden, that statistics in those countries show an upsurge in formal divorce applications. And even on a more informal basis, a major U.S. website that allows users to create Do-It-Yourself divorce agreements, based on customizable templates, has recently announced a 34% increase in sales.
The news appears to be equally bleak in Canada. Although official statistics are not yet readily available, Family Law lawyers are anecdotally reporting a recent uptick in the number of clients who are approaching them for advice on divorce.
That said, this does not mean that actual divorces will spike at the same rate; the process of filing for and obtaining a divorce in Canada has changed during the pandemic as well. During a significant part of the past year since the beginning of the outbreak, the Family Courts have remained closed for all-but-urgent matters, and there have been corresponding reductions, delays, and a growing backlog in court administrative processes, even for non-contentious matters. This will have a sharp impact on the speed at which disgruntled formal couples can actually sever their financial and emotional ties to each other.