As the coronavirus raged through China, a housewife in her 30s spent almost two months in isolation with her out-of-work spouse. They fought constantly. A familiar list of marital irritants, including too little money, too much screen time, housework and child care that were not evenly split escalated during this time. The housewife did not want to endure this anymore. The couple agreed to get a divorce, and the next thing was to find lawyers.
Pursuant to a recent article, although China only publishes nationwide statistics on divorce annually, media reports from various cities show divorce and separation rates surged in March as husbands and wives began emerging from weeks of government-mandated isolation. Incidents of domestic violence also multiplied, which is already occurring in the United States.
A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article reported the city of Xian, in central China, and Dazhou, in Sichuan province, both reported record-high numbers of divorce filings in early March, leading to long backlogs at government offices. “Trivial matters in life led to the escalation of conflicts, and poor communication has caused everyone to be disappointed in marriage and make the decision to divorce,” the city registration center’s director, Yi Xiaoyan, was quoted as saying.
Other divorce firms and lawyers have reported increases in caseloads as much as 25% since the lockdowns began to ease. When the virus hit in late January, couples in many cities had to endure an additional two months trapped under the same roof, sometimes with extended family. For many, it was too much. “The more time they spent together, the more they hate each other,” one attorney said of his new cases.
Even when the epidemic abates and life can return to relative normalcy, the psychological and economic strains are expected to endure for months. A study of people in Hong Kong in the wake of the 2002-03 SARS epidemic found that “one year after the outbreak, SARS survivors still had elevated stress levels and worrying levels of psychological distress,” including depression and anxiety. Moreover, divorce in Hong Kong’s general population in 2004 was 21% higher than 2002 levels.
If any of the above scenarios are similar to what you are experiencing, you should contact a family law attorney who can help you understand your rights and obligations and make informed choices in any decision to move forward with separation or divorce.
ABOUT MEGAN SMITH
Megan E. Smith devotes her practice to matrimonial, divorce, and family law, and is a trained collaborative lawyer and divorce mediator. She works with clients in all areas of matrimonial and family law, including the developing area of LGBT law as it relates to children and families. Her practice is concentrated in divorce, dissolution of civil unions, termination of domestic partnerships, custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, equitable distribution and pre-nuptial planning as well as related post-judgment issues, such as emancipation, support enforcement, and implementation of settlement agreements.
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