If you feel that your marriage has suffered irreparable damage during the COVID-19 pandemic, you're not alone. In China, the number of divorce applications soared after the lockdown ended for the country in March. Here in the U.S., numerous family law experts say they expect to see a similar rise in divorce rates–and some family law lawyers say they already have.
Having a marital crisis under these unprecedented circumstances is understandable. When you're with your spouse 24-hours a day for weeks on end, it can test even the strongest marriage. Irritating behaviors that you can usually overlook or escape from for a while can suddenly feel unbearable. And if the marriage was on rocky ground to begin with, divorce may appear increasingly appealing.
But don't be too hasty. Quarantine and pandemics don't last forever, and the heightened negative emotions you may be feeling may not either. Here are three questions to ask yourself before taking the significant step of filing for divorce.
- Have you tried to work out your problems? Countless struggling couples have backed away from the brink of divorce after undergoing marriage counseling. Although starting therapy while in quarantine may not be ideal, it may well address unsettled issues in your relationship and save your marriage. If nothing else, going to therapy can help you understand whether you truly want to divorce. Many therapists are currently offering Zoom sessions for unhappy couples stranded at home.
- Are you prepared to handle the financial stress that often comes with divorce? Divorce can have a significant impact on your finances, particularly for women. Studies have repeatedly shown that women, especially mothers, are at significantly higher risk of falling into poverty after a divorce. Children, too, can be hit hard by their parents' weakened financial condition, as one parent or both may no longer have money for their education or certain extra-curricular activities. Before taking the plunge, fully educate yourself on the state of your family's finances and draw up a realistic budget of post-divorce expenses. It's also essential to speak to a qualified divorce lawyer and an accountant to obtain an accurate picture of the assets you might be entitled to and your post-divorce financial outlook.
- Do you have a realistic view of what your life will likely be like after divorce? When you're deeply unhappy with your marriage and spouse, you may envision your post-divorce life as an oasis of freedom and happiness. But the reality is usually quite different. Depending on your financial condition, the level of emotional support you'll have, and other factors, it may take a significant amount of time to achieve the post-divorce lifestyle you dream of having.
Marriage takes work, but divorce is not an easy out. If you've seriously considered these questions and still feel that divorce is the right action–or you're still not sure– talk to a qualified divorce lawyer. A good divorce lawyer can help you take a realistic look at your situation and give you the objective perspective you may need to make a decision.