Are lockdown divorce applications on the rise? It looks like it

Earlier this year predictions were that divorce rates would spike due to our Covid-19 lockdown, as had happened elsewhere in the world.

According to a local legal business DIY Legal, news coming out of China is that divorces have significantly increased since their lockdown ended, with it being impossible to get a divorce booking. While it usually takes a week to secure an appointment, the wait for a booking can now last a month or more.

Saudi Arabia is also seeing a 30% increase in divorces related to marital issues exposed by the lockdown.

During South Africa's hard Level 5 lockdown there was an increase in divorce interest, DIY Legal manager Brendan McNulty told Parent24, but it wasn't possible to progress divorces then.

McNulty says he has seen a 20% increase in divorce applications since lockdown Level 4.

Perhaps the majority are waiting until the regulations are lifted before proceeding with their applications, and our drawn out system of lockdown levels is also flattening our divorce curve.

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, what does lockdown do?

South Africa ranks 83rd out of 154 countries for divorce, and a poll by Parent24 asking how couples are handling extra time with their partners reveal 60% of couples are getting through this together.

Just 17% said they were contemplating divorce.

A poll by W24 revealed 16% of respondents thought their relationship had suffered irreversible damage under lockdown, while 59% said nothing has changed. 

This is heartening, but as the lockdown drags on and the economy continues to suffer, will increased dissatisfaction result in a spike in South African divorces?

Quarantine contributions

According to DIY Legal's statistics, South Africans have multiple reasons for divorce, but most of them aren't specifically referencing the pandemic. The most popular single reason, they report, is "There is no love, respect or affection between the parties". 

Two out of three recent divorcing couples in China cited stress over the virus and/or quarantine had contributed to the breakdown of their marriage. They further said there was little split in housework, and money stress contributed to marital stress.

READ: Can you get a divorce without your spouse's consent?

READ: How to tell your child you're getting divorced

READ: Is failure to contribute financially grounds for divorce? A legal expert answers

Many responses included specific issues with a partner, including adultery and substance abuse (either excessive drinking or drugs).

This was more of an issue with women being the plaintiff, and could contribute to the lack of "respect between the parties" being the most common reason for divorce.

Who wants out?

In 62% of DIY Legal's cases, the plaintiff is the wife, McNulty says, which contrasts with 51% of divorces countrywide.

In China, 74% of divorces are initiated by women.

It would appear we haven't (yet) reached the peak in divorces locally.

As our lockdown becomes less severe and the economic situation worsens, McNulty says he expects to see more local divorces, matching international trends.

READ: Divorce rates spike in Chinese lockdown, could this be South Africa's fate too?

READ: How to get a DIY divorce in South Africa

READ: What does it cost to get divorced in South Africa?

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