Atlanta-based attorney Elizabeth Lindsey, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says she and other divorce lawyers generally have kept busy, in some cases grappling with pandemic-related complications regarding child visitation rights.
She expects there will be pent-up demand for divorces once the COVID-19 threat eases.
“Plenty of people I’ve consulted with were not ready to pull the trigger during the pandemic,” she said.
Recent months have been busier than usual for Louise Livesay, a lawyer in St. Paul, Minnesota, who specializes in collaborative divorce — a process in which the spouses are represented by attorneys seeking to negotiate outcomes fair to both parties.
Livesay said the stresses of the pandemic exacerbated existing strains in some marriages, pushing couples toward divorce. But she said many of her clients were eager to avoid contentious litigation and were open to equitable financial arrangements.
“I found people to be a bit more willing to work toward solutions when things are difficult,” she said.
For some couples, a jarring consequence of the pandemic has been the discovery by one spouse that the other was cheating on them.
“It has brought to light a lot of extramarital affairs that people couldn’t hide anymore,” said Harris, at the University of Minnesota. “Maybe they would meet on the way to or from work. Now they’re texting, and the other spouse asks: ’Who are you texting?’”
For other couples, a key problem is loss of their pre-pandemic routines.
Harris described one troubled couple who entered marriage counseling a year ago, just before the pandemic took hold.
Now, the wife feels pressure to keep working, Harris said, while the husband tries to help their children with online schoolwork even though his teaching skills aren’t great. His beloved adult hockey league has shut down.
“They’re in this relationship that’s struggling, and all their coping mechanisms are stripped away,” Harris said. “My heart breaks for them.”
In the Catholic diocese of Arlington, Virginia, psychologist Michael Horne, who counsels couples on behalf of Catholic Charities, has observed one heart-warming development that he attributes partly to the pandemic. There are now 20 couples enrolled in the agency’s adoption program, up from seven a year ago.
“Having more time together has afforded couples time to have those really important conversations,” he said. “What does it mean to be a family?”
This article written by David Crary originally appeared on APNews.com.