Something unusual is happening in China following self-isolation of couples due to COVID-19, the divorce rates are climbing according to registry officials. They believe it’s because couples are spending too much time together in quarantine. Self-isolated couples are getting into arguments over petty things and rushing off to file for divorce because they are anxious and angry. Scientists aren’t certain that working together in close quarters is emotionally healthy for couples and it’s too early to know whether a similar spike in divorces will occur in America due to the self-isolation needed to control the virus.
Self-Quarantine and Divorce
Chinese officials are seeing a record number of divorce applications since the quarantine was lifted. Some cities report they are filling all available appointments to meet with a local government official to begin the divorce process. Chinese officials speculate that two factors are causing this rapid rise in divorces: because offices were closed for a while there is a backlog of divorce applications waiting to be filed and being quarantined in close quarters for months is stressful for married couples who were not getting along before the virus struck. Being in the same house with an angry spouse can trigger underlying conflicts and cause a flight to divorce court.
Natural Disasters Increase Divorce Rates
We have known for some time that natural disasters increase the divorce rate, while man-made disasters such as 9/11 lower divorce rates. Experts have speculated that man-made disasters increase our awareness of death and draw couples closer. However, after natural disasters, couples face disruptions in their lives and they divorce more often as a result, perhaps due to increased anxiety, anger, and depression. Some experts have predicted that there will be a spike in babies born within nine months of America’s self-quarantine for COVID-19. However, we don’t know whether there will be a significant increase in the number of divorces in America after the quarantine is lifted. Because of experiences in China, where couples divorced in haste and regretted it later, American experts suggest it makes sense to be cautions and not rush into a divorce just because you feel trapped at home with your spouse during the viral quarantine.
What’s the Answer?
American experts recommend that couples considering a divorce because they are unhappy spending time together in self-quarantine should seek marriage counseling before they hire a divorce attorney. They point out that many couples who divorced during the viral pandemic in China remarried within a few weeks, regretting their hasty decision to untie the knot during the pandemic. Divorce in China is quick and easy, often taking less than an hour, so couples had little time to reconcile before they were divorced. In America, couples must wait at least 60 days before their divorce is final. During that time, especially if they opt for a collaborative divorce, they can reconsider and perhaps reconcile once the threat of viral infection and self-isolation is over.
Self-Isolation is Stressful
Marriage experts know that working with your spouse in close quarters while children are home from school creates additional stress when anxiety levels are already high because of the danger from viral infection. For couples who can’t communicate effectively, working together at home can be especially challenging. Mental health professionals recommend not rushing into a divorce during these stressful times—better to wait until the pandemic has run its course and then decide if you need a divorce.
If you do decide you need a divorce, they suggest you choose the collaborative process because you can avoid the court house, hold collaborative meetings by videoconferencing, and lower the risk of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, couples in a collaborative divorce learn to share information in a calm manner and communicate their needs effectively and positively. Support and coaching from the collaborative team helps clients set boundaries, manage difficult emotions, transition to being effective co-parents, manage disagreements, find ways to engage while building independent lives, and develop new skills with the support of the collaborative team. Divorce is difficult in the best of circumstances and going to court is especially stressful when there is the risk of viral infection. Resolving marital issues through negotiation in a collaborative divorce lowers stress and helps clients become better parents and people when it’s over.