Valerie H. Tocci is an attorney who specializes in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including divorce, custody, spousal and child support, equitable distribution of property, and more. Tocci says that in legal circles, there have been some talk that there will be an increase in filings for divorce once the coronavirus pandemic ends. In some parts of China, the divorce rate did spike after lockdowns were eased in March. However, Tocci explains there are a variety of factors that can cause couples to break up, such as the age at which they were married or incompatibility that's been amplified during lockdown. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
It seems everywhere you turn these days, the conversation leads to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus continues to interrupt lives, facing unique challenges has become the new normal. Some obvious effects of the outbreak are the impacts on the economy, our education systems, and the environment — but it seems the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders throughout the US have also managed to wreak havoc on the nation's marriages.
There has been talk amongst relationship experts and family attorneys that divorce rates will spike post-pandemic when courts are open and operating again. Some couples now stuck at home are being forced to interact and engage with each other in different ways. They may have to address issues or confront subjects they were able to avoid by engaging in their regular routines, working, and socializing. The overall stresses of the pandemic — financial, emotional, and physical — are forcing some people to take a hard look at their partners. Tensions are high, and there's nowhere to go. The truth is, it's already established that spending more time together, in close quarters, can increase the chance of divorce. In China, Bloomberg reported a divorce spike in March after couples emerged from weeks of strict lockdowns aimed to stop the spread of COVID-19. The city of Xian, in central China, and Dazhou, in Sichuan province, both experienced, "record-high numbers of divorce filings in early March, leading to long backlogs at government offices." In Miluo City in the Hunan province, some staff members didn't "even have time to drink water" because so many couples were waiting in line to file for divorce, according to a state media report in March. Additionally, a study from the University of Washington demonstrated that divorces usually increase after the summer months or after holidays when couples are together for longer periods of time. That's why January is called divorce month. Similarly, couples who do not live together may be forced to take long periods of time apart or re-evaluate wedding plans, which can create a new set of stressors and lead to breakups. It wouldn't be fair to completely blame coronavirus for an increase in divorce rates and relationship issues, though. In a Spectrum News article, a New York-based neuropsychologist said many of her clients already knew they had issues in their marriage before COVID-19, and their problems only worsened during lockdown. People who are divorcing or ending their relationship often cite lack of commitment, incompatibility, infidelity, and constant conflict as reasons for separating. One study from the Institute for Family Studies, affectionately nicknamed the "Goldilocks theory of marriage," looked at how age impacts divorce. It revealed that tying the knot too early or too late can put your marriage at risk, but getting married sometime in your late 20s or early 30s will increase your odds of a successful marriage. The study was broken into five different age groups. Those married under the age of twenty had a higher risk for divorce, at around 38%. The 20-24 age range showed a 27% divorce rate, while ages 25-29 and 30-34 had a divorce rate of 14% and 10% respectively. Those who were married over the age of 35 had a 17% divorce rate. More recent studies show similar data. According to the Census Bureau, the average age for marriage in 2019 was 28 for women and 30 for men. In comparison, the Atlantic reported the average age of marriage in 1990 was 23 for women and 26 for men. It's possible that the trend towards getting married at a later age directly correlates with current trends in divorce rate, which are actually on the decline among younger generations. The reason for this decline could also be that, overall, the number of people getting married has decreased. It seems today's couples are taking a different approach (once considered nontraditional) and spend time living with their partners despite not being married. Cohabiting before marriage could be a factor as to why couples may be waiting longer to tie the knot. On the other hand, we could say that divorce rates among couples over the age of 50 is seeing an increase because they got married at younger ages. But we're still left wondering: Will the COVID-19 pandemic cause divorce rates to skyrocket? It may be too early to tell. There are a variety of factors that determine a couple's likelihood of staying together, the pandemic among them. It's possible that the age at which you get married is the factor that acts as an umbrella over the rest. If you get married in your late teens to mid-20s, you may struggle more financially and emotionally because you're still finding your place in life. Couples who marry at this age can experience conflict or infidelity issues down the line. It's possible that the panic of the coronavirus has caused some of these issues to arise sooner than they would have otherwise. While conflict and compatibility issues may arise in any marriage, couples who get married in their late 20s and early 30s may have a more long-lasting marriage because, at that age, they're more likely to know how to confront issues head-on and be able to resolve them. It seems as though COVID-19 could be the reason some couples are surrendering to divorce or separation, but it's clear it's not the only factor affecting their relationships. Valerie H. Tocci is a Partner at Stutman, Stutman, & Lichtenstein, LLP. She represents individuals and families in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including divorce, custody, spousal and child support, equitable distribution of property, pre-nuptial, post-nuptial and divorce agreements, post-judgment matters, hearings and trials. Tocci is a litigator with extensive courtroom experience. SEE ALSO: Cuffing season is over, and filings for divorce are on the rise. Here's a divorce lawyer's advice on how to cope with a breakup. 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Divorces are climbing among the quarantined New York City elite, who are arguing about politics, parenting, and money now that they're forced to spend more time together
Quarantine has caused an uptick in divorces among New York City's elite, according to a high-powered...Quarantine has caused an uptick in divorces among New York City's elite, according to a high-powered attorney whose clients have an average net worth of $15 million. She said spending so much time together during quarantine has forced couples to confront what they've been ignoring: an unhappy marriage. Different political beliefs, parenting styles, and views on money are the main sources of contention leading to splits. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. It's a busy time to be a divorce lawyer for Manhattan's elite. "I've never seen anything like this ever," divorce lawyer Nancy Chemtob, a founding partner of Chemtob Moss Forman & Beyda LLP who has practiced law for over 25 years, told Business Insider. "I've been through the 2008 crisis and 9/11, I've been through ups and downs ... But this is insane." Chemtob's typical client is married with a net worth of $15 million and two kids attending private school. The firm has offices in both New York City and the Hamptons. She estimates that the firm has seen a 30% uptick in conflict checks — a process that ensures a potential new client isn't a conflicting interest with a new or former client of the firm — since the pandemic began. She said what might have been two conflict checks a day has now turned into seven or eight. Lockdown is forcing couples to face reality Lockdown has been a little too close for comfort for some married couples. Whereas they typically spent two-and-a-half hours a day together between work and other commitments pre-pandemic, Chemtob said, they're lucky if they get two-and-a-half hours of alone time during quarantine. "As they say, familiarity breeds contempt," Chemtob said. She thinks the shock of the pandemic is forcing couples to reckon with their unhappy marriages. Busy pre-pandemic lives — filled with parties, friend dinners, and traveling — distracted couples from the distance that had grown between them, she said, which they had often overlooked for the sake of the kids. But the emptiness of quarantine is causing them to lose the facade and question their future together as they also question the state of the world. They're now approaching marriage from the standpoint of, "'We don't know what this is going to look like in a year. I don't think I could spend another hour with this person and I just have to get out,'" Chemtob said. "It's almost like ... if the world is coming to an end, 'Is this what I want to be doing?'" Parents, politics, and packages Quarantine has forced partners to see each other's true colors, in which different values are coming to a head. Today's contentious political landscape, Chemtob said, is making ideological differences between couples more glaring than ever. "I have clients who call me and say, 'I can't believe that my husband thinks that the monuments shouldn't be taken down, while I think people should be wearing masks,'" she said. One spouse may be fearful of breaking quarantine to leave the house while the other wants to socialize, she added. Likewise, one spouse may be immunocompromised and wear a mask, whereas the other thinks the pandemic is a hoax and refuses to wear a mask. Such differences are also playing out in parenting styles, which Chemtob said have become a huge source of contention. They're disagreeing on whether their kid should stay inside or go out and take advantage of their youth, she said. Parents are also facing several complicated decisions now that their kids are home all the time, she added, such as whether to homeschool their elementary-aged child or whether to send their teenager to college in person. "The people who work full time are finding out that one [parent's] approach is to eat cheese doodles and ice cream," she said. "And the other one can't believe they're letting the kid eat cheese doodles and ice cream." But the biggest factor, she said, is financial stress. One spouse will be worried about their business and making ends meet, while the other will have an influx of Amazon packages coming in. "Financial pressures coupled with being together literally 24 hours a day are breaking the camel's back," she said. But it's not just wealthy New Yorkers feeling marital discord as a result of the pandemic. Matrimonial and family law attorney Valerie H. Tocci wrote in an opinion column for Business Insider that, within legal circles, there's been chatter about an increase in divorce filings once the pandemic ends. Like New York's elite, less-affluent couples are also being forced to address issues they were previously able to avoid. Look no further than China, where divorce rates spiked in March after the country emerged from lockdown.SEE ALSO: A private chef quarantined with his wealthy bosses in the Hamptons. He reveals what it's like to shop for groceries in a 'war zone' and make 'drug deals' for flour to cook for 17 people. DON'T MISS: Rich urbanites are fleeing big cities and draining resources in smaller, more remote vacation spots. Here's where they're going — and how the locals feel about it. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How waste is dealt with on the world's largest cruise ship
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