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Divorce During COVID-19: The Impact on Family Dynamics, Mental Health, and Domestic Violence

COVID-19 numbers are not the only ones being tracked amid the ongoing public health crisis. The ongoing spread of the coronavirus has dealt a serious blow to marriages and family dynamics across the country and throughout the state of New York due to a variety of factors that have created the perfect divorce storm.

Has COVID-19 Led to More Divorce?

According to data collected by Legal Templates, a company that provides legal documents, the number of people seeking a divorce went up 34% from March to June this year. An article from Spectrum News also indicated there was a 27% nationwide increase in divorce lawyer referrals this spring, compared to an 11% decrease during the same period last year.

While being compelled to stay home with their spouse may be ideal for some, for others it can add more stress and confrontation to an already strained marriage. And being forced to stay home could provide unhappy spouses more opportunity to think about divorce, research local divorce attorneys, and make the initial inquiry to start the divorce process.

How Has Quarantine Impacted Family Dynamics?

​Divorce is far from the only notable impact seen within families resulting from the pandemic and quarantine. These are some of the less apparent yet equally important repercussions of COVID-19 and resources available to assist family members during these times:

Additional Financial Stressors

Thousands of Americans lost their jobs as a result of business shutdowns or slowdowns as well as stay-at-home orders. As a result, many have struggled to cope with the loss of valuable income. In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, of Americans surveyed:

  • 25% of Americans have had trouble paying their bills
  • 33% have used money from savings or retirement to pay bills
  • 17% have gotten food from a food bank or organization
  • 16% had trouble paying rent and mortgage

Money stress can take a toll on mental health and lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, hopelessness, and anger—some of these emotions may even be taken out on others within the home.

Increased Risk of Domestic Violence

While stay-at-home orders are meant to keep individuals and families safe, not everyone is safer at home. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), adults and children are both at an increased risk of experiencing domestic violence during this period, relating to a variety of risk factors which may include:

  • Economic devastation
  • Quarantine, which disconnects many from community and support systems
  • Increased use of substance abuse
  • Fewer options available for victims to flee dangerous home environments

The Safe Center is a Long Island-based agency dedicated to providing immediate protection and assistance to families experiencing domestic and sexual abuse. If you are experiencing domestic violence or intimate partner violence, you can call the hotline at (516)-542-0404 at any hour. Law partner Jacqueline Harounian works with the center and can also provide you with more information on how to immediately address your unique situation.

Limited In-Person Schooling Options for Children

Over the last few months, Long Island parents have also faced dilemmas regarding schooling options. Some families have opted to send their children to school for in-person classes, while others have chosen to continue with remote or hybrid learning.

Many are weighing the importance of ensuring their children are receiving quality, personalized education while keeping other, more vulnerable members of the household safe from possible infection. Personalized or in-person education may be ideal for any child, and for special needs children, it’s even more essential.

Many children with special needs require special education and different forms of therapy to aid them with their unique needs, which may include:

  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Behavioral therapy

Missing these critical courses can regress a child’s condition and ultimately lead to lost skills, social delays, or developmental missed milestones.

Negative Impact on Mental Health

​The pandemic can be stressful for both adults and children, yet everyone reacts differently to these situations. Depending on mental health history, other health disorders, home life, one’s financial status, support systems in place, some individuals will be negatively impacted and can potentially develop full-blown symptoms of mental health disorders, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (ODC)
  • Mood swings/bipolar disorder

Further, public health actions, such as social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders, can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially for those who live alone.

​Sadly, young people are not immune to these types of emotions. While depression most often begins in adolescence, according to the Child Mind Institute, it can actually occur in children as young as preschool age. With that said, here are three steps parents can take to guard against child depression:

  1. Be aware of the signs of childhood depression
  2. Help kids feel comfortable talking about their feelings and concerns
  3. Take steps to engage your saddened child

If you or someone you know is in a crisis and is feeling suicidal, counselors from the Long Island Crisis Center’s hotline are available 24/7 at (516)-679-1111. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255

Substance Abuse and Addiction Disorders

Mental health problems often go hand in hand with substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about one in four (25%) individuals with a serious mental illness also has a substance abuse disorder. Life changes, stress, and social isolation are all factors that can lead to or worsen substance use. During these uncertain times, those with substance abuse disorders may be engaging in substance use at much higher rates than usual.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, you can reach out to the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence (LICADD) for immediate help, resources, and information on recovery options.

We Are Here for You and Your Family Through the Pandemic

Early on during the pandemic only serious and urgent matters like substance abuse or domestic violence were addressed by the courts, currently all types of family law matters are being heard, either remotely or in-person. Our legal team continues to aggressively and effectively handle all aspects of family issues, from commencing divorce proceedings, assisting with visitation and custody issues, helping families escape hostile or unsafe environments, and referring our clients to mental health professionals who can provide them the appropriate help.

At Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, we understand that going through any divorce or legal proceeding, but especially one in these unprecedented times, can be scary and challenging. We are here to make sure our clients are completely protected throughout all steps of the process, with minimal negative impact on children involved.

Contact our Long Island family law attorneys at (516) 773-8300 to get started with a free, no-obligation consultation.

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