Quarantining with your spouse or partner during the Coronavirus pandemic can be stressful, and bring out the strengths and weaknesses in a relationship. Lawyers and therapists say they expect to see a rise in divorce once the quarantine is over, similar to what China is experiencing.
"I have heard talk from couples about divorce, about 'I just can't do this relationship anymore.' I think because of the hype and because emotions are high right now," Janean Byrne, a Clinical Mental Health Counselor, said.
Byrne owns Serenity Counseling in Fort Myers.
Attorney Mike Chionopoulos of Absolute Law said he's gotten at least a dozen calls from clients about divorce since the pandemic started.
Chionopoulos said he expects to see a significant spike in divorce.
"I think its going to be after the quarantine, and after people go back to work. Several people have called me looking for divorce information, and they're waiting for either their government stimulus check or their tax return to come, then file for divorce," he said.
Both Chionopoulos and Byrne said the couples thinking of divorce now were probably already on their way there before the pandemic.
"I don't think that something like this is enough to completely tear a marriage apart," Byrne said.
“The relationships that were already teetering on the brink of ending, and this was just enough to push them over,” Chionopoulos said. “Everybody's human, and we all have irritating idiosyncrasies. And I think when you're around somebody 24/7 and you can't get away, no matter how much you love that person, you're going to find some of the things they do irritating.”
That’s why Byrne said it’s important to have a balance of being together and apart. When you are spending time together, she said be intentional and creative. Bring date night to your home. She also said don’t spend too much time talking, reading, or thinking about the pandemic.
“Think about when you guys first met, it was so exciting to do new things together. If you're not balancing the negativity with fun, then that's where we see the issues,” Byrne said.
She and Chionopoulos also said don’t rush to get a divorce.
“When there are those that say ‘There's no history of problems,, we were happy until this virus,' that's when I say ‘You know what, go home and give this a month. Don't jump out there and go file a divorce right now. Let's wait until this disaster is over,’” Chionopoulos said.
Byrne also pointed out how expensive divorce can be.
“Our country is going to go into a recession, or we're going into a recession, and people are losing their jobs, and divorce expensive. It is expensive. And I think couples fare financially better together. So it's really not a great time to make that decision,” she said.
Chionopoulos said Florida does not have a separation statute like most states do, where a couple can become legally separated so they’re no longer financially responsible for the acts of the other person. But he said there are other options, including a post-nuptial agreement.
“I tell a lot of people, ‘Let’s try that out. Why don’t you get someplace else to live, make sure the kids are set, and you move out, and let’s give it a little time,” he said.
Byrne said Serenity Counseling is doing sessions for anyone in need — whether it’s for couples therapy, anxiety, depression, or grief — online and in person, if you are comfortable. She said their office is taking the necessary precautions to keep you safe. She also said they are offering a discounted fee to anyone having a hard time financially because of the pandemic.