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As courts reopen, divorce claims on the rise

According to figures from the California Superior Court, divorce requests have risen significantly in Los Angeles over the past five months, compared to the same period in 2020. And some attorneys and relationship experts say divorce requests at New York and other states are also on the rise.

“These types of trends generally run parallel from state to state,” said Leslie Barbara, president of Davidoff Hutcher and Citron, a marriage law firm in New York City.

Of course, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know whether the higher rates are due to more people wanting to divorce or because many courtrooms were closed during the pandemic, creating a backlog.

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Although New York City keeps its divorce records sealed, Ms Barbara and several other attorneys said they saw enough anecdotal evidence to know that divorces appear to be on the rise almost everywhere.

David Badanes, a New York City divorce attorney, said his office has been handling an avalanche of covid divorces for more than three months.

“Since May, our business has grown by over 20%,” he said.

Martha Cohen Stine, partner with her mother, Harriet N. Cohen, of the New York law firm Cohen Stine Kapoor, said that “since April our phones have been ringing nonstop, and most of the callers are people who call. want to get in and start divorce proceedings.

Ms Stine added: “During the pandemic, many of these same people experienced marital problems and postponed their separation for practical reasons.” And in some cases, she said some couples “wait until vaccines are approved and gain social and economic stability before leaving their marriage.”

In May 2020, three months after the start of the pandemic, Rachel Salomon, 46, who lives in Brooklyn, filed for legal separation from her 10-year-old husband, a move that allows both sides to retain the health insurance they shared even though they are no longer together.

Both parties have the option of converting their legal separation status to divorce at any time.

Ms Salomon, who has two young children, said of her status: “I filed a case just before the courts closed and my legal separation status was finalized in January 2021.”

She added: “The best part was that my ex and I each spent time apart with the kids and time alone during the pandemic.”

Ms Cohen said the financial aspect of these post-pandemic divorces works one or two ways.

“In one case, there might still be money to pay for the divorce, to pay for child custody and for attorneys and other related legal fees,” she said, “But in many cases , there is less money for a divorced couple, maybe because one of them lost their job due to the coronavirus, and now the spouse who was hanging around for that money realizes: ‘Wait, there is no money here, so why am i still here?

Such questions are at the heart of Lee Wilson’s work.

Mr. Wilson is a relationship expert and “breakup coach” in Nashville who collects data from the thousands of surveys he sends out to married couples.

Two months ago, 2,704 married people responded to Mr. Lee’s most recent survey on the effect on marriages of reopens after closings. (Respondents were married on June 3, 2021; the survey was conducted before the last wave related to the Delta variant of the coronavirus.)

Among the questions of the investigation were: “Since the reopening following the confinements of 2020/2021 and a significant return to normal following the changes of the Covid-19 pandemic, has your marital relationship been impacted?

Twenty-one percent of those polled said the pandemic had affected their marriage, a 10 percent increase from a poll asking the same question the year before.

“I didn’t think it would turn around this quickly and dramatically,” Mr. Lee said. “I had hoped for a better result, but I guess it was just wishful thinking.”

Ms Barbara compared the growing number of divorces in the country to “a barrage that is bursting”.

Ms Barbara said the growing number of divorces may reflect marital issues that had been hidden for much of the past year and a half. “All the problems, all the problems that people were facing during the pandemic, were still there, but we didn’t see it because people were staying at home at that time, and the courts were closed for decades. months, ”she said. “But now a lot of people have been vaccinated and things are starting to normalize. “

This return to normal, or at least semi-normality, could mean that couples are finally completing divorces that they have been forced to delay.

Ms Barbara said she has dealt with Covid-related cases in which one or the other has had an extramarital affair, which she called “the biggest trigger for divorce.”

“During the pandemic, there was nowhere to go to have an affair,” she said. “The hotels were closed and no one was traveling on business or leaving their homes for that matter,” she said.

Now that things are opening up again, she noted, “we are seeing more and more clients getting divorced because they either caught their spouse having an affair or they are having one. same “.

Marilyn Chinitz, a divorce lawyer and partner at New York law firm Blank Rome, said defending a divorced client in the post-pandemic era “is much more complicated and detailed than before.”

“I had to fix the kind of custody issues that weren’t there before Covid-19 hit,” she said. “I mean, who would have thought at the time that we would hear plaintiffs and defendants arguing over whether or not the nanny should be vaccinated, or a demand that only people wearing masks could play with their children?” . And then there’s: ‘I don’t want my child to go to distance education, I want him or her to go to school.’ “

Elizabeth Overstreet, a relationship expert in Raleigh, North Carolina, said she had been inundated with calls from recently divorced people across the country. Whether these calls are from New York, California, or any intermediate state, almost all of them share a common theme.

“During the pandemic, couples took the time to reassess their relationships and redefine their priorities before deciding to stay married or divorce,” Ms. Overstreet said.

“There is a lot of angst out there, which is why many divorced people tell me that they are now approaching new relationships by keeping potential partners at a higher level of maturity and authenticity, and that from the dating level, will never settle again. ‘for anyone.

“Those days are over,” Ms. Overstreet added, “because no one wants to divorce again.”

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