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Despite pandemic straining relationships, Florida divorce rates decline

Posted at 12:30 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 23:39:30-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — After dating the man she calls "the one,” the love of her life, on and off for 25 years, Kristin Miller called it quits for good seven months ago. She says the COVID-19 pandemic pushed her over the edge.

“We had issues prior to this happening, and then (deep breath) when you spend so much time together, you know it was coming up more and more,” she said.

Prior to 2020, Miller traveled for work. She says working from home last year forced her to see things in her relationship she often overlooked while on the road.

“It was a lot of stuff, but the communication was the biggest thing. He was totally unaccountable for anything,” she said.

Miller says being the breadwinner of the two during a time when finding a job was challenging brought their relationship to a dark place.

“He was an angry person. It had nothing to do, I don’t believe with me. It had to do with his own self-esteem, and how he felt as a man,” she said.

Then, it got to the point where she says it just wasn’t fixable.

“It started to really eat up at me, and I felt - I felt really bad, everyday,” she said.

Dr. Laura Streyffeler, a licensed mental health counselor says the pandemic has had polar opposite effects on relationships.

“For some it’s made them closer, for others it’s pulled them further apart,” she said.

When you hear from Miller, you probably wouldn't expect to learn that the number of people who got divorced in the sunshine state dropped in 2020. A report by Bloomberg Wealth shows Florida divorces declined by 28 percent up until September of 2020.

According to the Florida Department of Health, Collier County’s divorce rate shrunk by half. Hendry County had a slight decline. Charlotte, Lee and Glades counties saw a slight jump by less than 1 percent.

Streyffeler says issues that brought couples to a breaking point were already there…but the pandemic magnified them.

“We talk about 2020 being perfect vision. 2020 really changed the vision of the way a lot of people see things,” she said.

Cape Coral Attorney David Dolley handles family law cases at Burandt, Adamski, Feichthaler & Sanchez PLLC. He noticed a spike in battles between couples who had already gone their separate ways and have children together.

“The financial issues got worse. The custody issues got worse. Splitting time sharing got worse,” he said.

Starting with who gets the stimulus check. It would typically get deposited to whomever claimed the children on their taxes, but that turned into a disagreement between co-parents.

“You know, mom would say, hey, I was expecting half. And now, dad might say, ‘Well, I’ve been furloughed, I really need it, so I’m not open to giving you half,” said Holley.

He also says the battle over virtual learning ramped up towards the end of 2020 as some parents transitioned back to the office.

“My employer’s letting me go back to work. I want the kid back in school, so I can do that, so I can’t do virtual learning anymore. And the other spouse being more COVID-conscious might say no, I want the kid to stay home,” said Holley.

Miller doesn’t have any young children with her ex but says like those parents - arguments and bickering became more common place in her relationship in 2020.

Streyffeler offered some tips if you’re dealing with stress at home, too. She encourages you to be present with the ones you love. She says it’s okay to take a break from being inside and go for a walk outdoors.

For more mental health resources click here or here.