Despite a sharp uptick in divorce filings in the early months of the pandemic, divorce rates have eased significantly in Ohio and across the rest of the country. But will that trend continue?
Relationship experts say that’s unlikely as vaccinations increase and families return to a sense of normalcy, including getting back to work and resuming other activities.
The reasons for divorce haven’t changed
The New York Times interviewed relationship expert Lee Wilson, who says it’s not surprising that divorces increased during the early part of 2020. Wilson believes those couples were already in troubled marriages. Due to stay-at-home orders, couples spent more time together, and it was too much. The U.S. Census Bureau lists the three top reasons for divorce as:
- Incompatibility – 43%
- Infidelity – 28%
- Financial problems – 22%
Wilson says many couples already experiencing those issues felt trapped and wanted an escape rather than being forced to spend more time together.
Others decided to stick it out – for now
In February of this year, Wilson received nearly 2,500 survey responses asking how the pandemic affected marriages. Less than 20% of couples said the experience strengthened their relationship. For many others, it was likely only a temporary reprieve for their marriages.
Many of the reasons include the uncertainty and fear over the virus, being forced to remain at home and lost jobs or reduced hours leading to increased financial insecurity. In some cases, stay-at-home orders made it difficult to carry on existing extramarital affairs, and shutdowns made regular outlets unavailable, such as bars and other gathering places.
When will the increase happen?
Ohio’s divorce rate has decreased considerably over the past few decades. In 2019, divorce impacted 2.8 out of every 1,000 residents. While recent statistics aren’t available for the Buckeye State, divorce filings in Florida, Rhode Island, Oregon and Missouri dropped by 9% to 19% from 2020 to 2021.
Much of the country has returned to normal despite a recent rise in virus cases, mainly among the unvaccinated. While it’s not clear when an increase in divorce filings will take effect, a University of Washington study concluded that divorces typically rise after the summer months or holidays when couples are together for a longer period of time.