Immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2019, New Jersey had the 7th lowest divorce rate in the nation, with 6.3% divorced women per 1,000 married people according to US News & World Report.
However, once the Spring 2020 lockdowns and lockdowns took effect, Garden State couples headed for a split found themselves at a crossroads.
For one thing, the partners struggled to find adequate privacy to have confidential conversations with their attorneys, according to Bari Weinberger, managing partner of the New Jersey-based Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group.
They would take those discussions in their car, run to the supermarket or walk their dog, just for a few minutes, so they wouldn’t have to cancel their appointments with a lawyer.
Weinberger said that only added to early pandemic stresses related to the safety and health of the family unit, maintaining job security and navigating remote learning and child care.
But for some, after a short time, the pressure became unbearable, according to Weinberger.
“Marriages, where there were already pre-existing pressures and tensions, were particularly at risk during this time,” she said. “In other situations, the pandemic finally exposed long-simmering tensions.”
This was especially true in the event that a family business went bankrupt because it had to close.
If a couple hadn’t already filed for divorce before the pandemic, Weinberger said, the lockdown has made it long to do so, given that court proceedings have been significantly reduced.
However, once law firms began to reopen, spouses felt they could too.
“The state of their relationship started to get a little easier, so they could go get the counseling they needed to explore their options and their rights,” Weinberger said.
But eliminating the backlog remains a lingering concern more than two years later, she said, because there simply aren’t enough judges to go around.
On the other hand, some marriages may have moved towards reconciliation with all the time spent together at home, or at least caused the partners to reconsider.
“Not necessarily to divorce, but rather to a marriage counselor and/or a member of the clergy with whom they have a good relationship, or a trusted counselor, in order to take steps to first remedy the difficulties in their marriage” , Weinberger said. .
According to Weinberger, sticking together during an unprecedented health crisis might have been the recipe some needed to focus on themselves.
“These couples have often used online therapy or virtual consultation from a Zoom attorney, even to guide them through reconciliation efforts,” she said.
Weinberger suggests that because court appointments can still be difficult to obtain, couples who don’t reconcile but remain reasonably civil should instead seek a settlement.
Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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