When most couples vowed for better or for worse, they likely didn’t imagine a scenario in which they’d be quarantined together indefinitely-while a global pandemic threatened their health. And their families’ health. And their jobs. And all of their normal routines. So, perhaps it’s not such a surprise that divorce lawyers’ phones are lighting up with distress signals from marriages collapsing under the strain.
Once the courts open back up, predicts attorney Heather Hostetter, “It’s going to be divorce-apalooza.”
In China, where life has slowly begun to return to normal, divorce filings are reportedly surging as people emerge from their lockdowns. Anecdotal evidence indicates there’s a decent chance the same thing will happen here.
People are discovering affairs while quarantined with their spouses
Hostetter, a partner at Hostetter Strent, says she’s heard from one woman who believes she’s discovered her husband is having an affair. The woman was already suspicious pre-quarantine, says Hostetter, but spending so much time trapped under the same roof has heightened her anxiety. For one thing, “The other spouse is being super protective of the phone, in a way that seems out of character.” For another, says Hostetter, he’s been taking extra-long bike rides. “She raised with me, ‘I think he goes out to exercise and he’s seeing this person and having sex. Not only does that make me feel like crap, but then he’s exposing our whole family to a possible Covid-19 contact.'”
Tracey Coates, co-chair of the family law practice at Paley Rothman, has also heard from spouses who’ve come to suspect infidelity while under quarantine. “They’re grappling with overhearing hush-hush calls in a separate room,” she says. “Or texts are going off at all hours.”
One big problem: there’s not much they can do about it right now. Which is why Hostetter says she counseled her new client to “think about what you can handle. … Do you really want to ask? Because if he’s going to be honest with you, is this really the time you want to know?”
The courts are almost entirely closed. And the logistics of seeking marriage counseling or packing up and leaving have obviously been complicated by coronavirus. Not to mention, many couples have children at home who are already under enough stress without having to witness the dissolution of their parents’ marriage.