It stands to reason that tough times create challenging circumstances for families. Given that the coronavirus pandemic in the various shutdowns, quarantines, and closings associated with the pandemic has been about the most challenging thing most of us have gone through in the past few years, I think it's fair to say that these are difficult times. Whether or not these tough times translate into tough decisions for families will be an interesting trend to note as we hopefully emerge from the worst of the times in our pandemic experience.
Families that were doing well before the pandemic- financially, emotionally, and relationally- are likely to be doing well right now. Likewise, families struggling before the pandemic with their relationships, finances, and emotional stability are probably not faring any better right now as the pandemic heads into its 5th month in our country. What should we expect from families and our rate of divorce in this state in our region specifically? That is a question our attorneys have been asked quite a bit recently.
When we think about divorce, we need to consider all the factors relevant to determining why families split up. It would be impossible to say that one particular aspect leads to divorce more than any other. Financial difficulties, like losing a job, and financial and marital infidelity, tend to lead to many divorces. If you add to these circumstances the stress brought about by fear of the virus, we have a situation that would appear to increase the rate of divorces necessarily. Let's spend some time discussing the factors in place right now for Texas families and how they could or could not lead to an increase in the divorce rate.
Why get a divorce?
As I mentioned earlier, the reasons why families get divorced are as varied and unique as there are various and unique families in our area. The reason why your boss and her husband may get divorced may be completely different from the reason why your neighbor and his wife get divorced. Having a diverse population as we do in Southeast Texas means cultural, religious, relational, and financial implications in place that may cause one family to move towards divorce in others, not even to bat an eye.
Let me start by saying that financial stress impacts more families than you may believe. Even during good economic times where job losses are few in the economy are creating jobs at a strong clip. It does not take much for a family with little savings to go from doing well financially to struggling. Think about what that loss in income would do to your family if you lost your job for even a month. Would you have trouble paying the mortgage? What about your credit card bills? this isn't even to mention student loans. An extended period where the bills can't be paid, and you have a situation where the stress associated with financial hardship could lead a couple towards pondering divorce.
What about infidelity? What I say is infidelity most of our minds go towards relational or marital infidelity. To be sure, a practicing family law attorney will find that sexual affair plays a role in many divorces. However, I believe that financial infidelity plays a big part in many divorces as well. For example, I have represented more than one client who immediately told me that problems with their spouse and your spending habits caused fissures in the relationship. I don't just mean that the spouse would overspend, either. What these folks would describe to me is a situation where their spouse would hide spending. This could be debts from before their marriage to purchases at Target that will be hidden under the bed until a later date.
So, if finances and infidelity lead to many divorces, what is the next step in the process? By this, I mean, how do we go from a problem with income for the family to the next stage of filing for divorce? Be aware that it is often not a spur of the moment for a spouse to file for divorce. Most of the time, the person has been considering this as a backup plan to the marriage failing for quite some time. Each family is unique in terms of the breaking point that they pull their parachute string and exit the plane.
If you believe that your family is hurtling towards a divorce, you should identify with any of these warning factors and where the trajectory of these issues is headed. For example, if financial infidelity has been a problem in your marriage when you believe that the prognosis is pointing upward, do you seek counseling or at least have honest discussions about the infidelity? Then you may be in good shape to avoid a divorce. However, if you and your spouse are retreating into your own Lives and are not taking this issue seriously, then it may be the case that your divorce is more likely to occur.
It is my opinion that the one circumstance that may be your family's saving grace, as far as avoiding a divorce, is the simple fact that it takes some degree of effort to get divorced. I have no doubt in my mind that if all it took to get divorced would be to go online, fill out a form, and you could get divorced that easy, many more people would get divorced. The reality of the situation is that it costs some money to file for divorce, it takes time to do the paperwork, it takes knowledge of the court system to file, and you have to wait to get divorced. All these factors combined make it more difficult than most would think to get divorced.
What actually happens quite a bit, or more often than you may believe, is spouses move apart from one another and take no steps to get a divorce after that. Some believe that by merely moving into separate residences, a divorce occurs on its own. Other people tell themselves that once things settle down a little bit, they will go through with making a divorce official. These folks send and receive child support, devise a makeshift visitation schedule for the kids, and even pay informal spousal maintenance to give themselves the look and feel of a divorce. However, the divorce will only be unofficial, and legally, these folks would still be married.
While finding a reason to get divorced is not tricky at any time, it would seem to be even easier during this time of pandemics and disruption to our daily lives. All of the necessary factors that we have listed would seem to be in place right now. During the past four months, job loss, stress, problems with hiding spending, and a general malaise regarding your relationship may have crept into your household. Let's spend some time discussing how the coronavirus quarantines could stand to harm or hurt your marriage.
Stuck at home with your spouse? Why this could stand to hurt your marriage
There is no way to say for sure that a quarantine over an extended time would hurt or help your marriage. As we have already discussed, factors within your relationship will determine whether or not this time could stand to be good or bad for you and your spouse. I would look to the nature of your relationship as it stands and the tools that you all have within yourselves to help or hurt your marriage. If you have tools in the toolbox to help your marriage, then this time together will likely be beneficial in some ways. If you lack those same tools, then a wedding that was already struggling will probably continue to do so.
Strong communication skills are probably the first tool that I would look to helping a marriage. Suppose your marriage has been struggling for whatever reason before this quarantine, but you have strong communication skills with your spouse. In that case, you have an opportunity to benefit the marriage by working together and talking through your issues. Sometimes your communication skills can be augmented by speaking with a professional like a therapist or counselor. Communication can lead to discussion, and discussion can lead to problem-solving. If your marriage is a problem right now, then it is something we need to solve sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, if you lack communication skills that are not a strong suit of your marriage, this quarantine is likely to harm your relationship. After working with many persons going through a divorce, I can tell you that communication skills are something that not all of us possess. That's not to say that they cannot be developed, but it comes easier for some than others. If you can perform an honest self-assessment and have determined that your communication skills need some work, then that is probably where you need to start when it comes to attempting to save your marriage.
While this quarantine would seem to provide you with the time necessary to develop some communication skills, it takes practice to hone those skills and improve them. This isn't a situation where you can read a book about how a person could improve their communication skills and then internalize those lessons and become an improved communicator. Communication is all about practice, period; whether you are delivering a speech or trying to work through problems in your marriage, you need to practice your communication skills to get better at it.
You and your spouse need to take active steps towards improving your communication together during this quarantine. There may be factors within the home, like your children, that make honest dialogue an uninterrupted discussion very difficult. Be that as it may, you all need to work together to set aside time where your communication skills can be practiced. If you can do this and make an effort to do so, you have a chance to improve your marriage in a void, becoming a statistic once this quarantine is done with.
When we hear about divorce rates skyrocketing due to this pandemic, I think that we can look to problems in communication and the unwillingness or inability to improve communication skills as the primary culprit. Yes, we all have individual circumstances which can either increase or decrease our chances of getting a divorce. However, these particular circumstances can be mitigated through discussion and problem solving with their spouse.
I know from experience that difficult times in a marriage can be overcome if you and your spouse are on the same page. If you cannot honestly tell me whether or not you know your spouse wants to get a divorce from you or not, then use our starting in a tricky position. Utilize the quarantine as an opportunity to develop your communication skills further and take an interest in having honest and communicative discussions with your spouse. If you make it your interest and devote a tremendous amount of time to it, I believe you can eliminate a big part of the risk of divorce from your family.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, in via video. We want you to know that our attorneys and staff continue to serve our community and our clients during these difficult times and hope to have the opportunity to speak with you about your circumstances should the need arise.