The pandemic isn’t just testing health and patience but relationships, too.
As Scottsdale and other Valley residents work from home and spend more time with family and significant others, divorce attorneys have noted an increase in divorces and an even bigger spike in inquiries about them.
According to a national study and local attorneys, divorce rates have increased and likely will continue to.
“Yes, we have seen a dramatic uptick in divorce filings since the pandemic started,” said Craig Cherney, attorney at Canterbury Law Group in northern Scottsdale.
Cherney said their filing volumes are up approximately 40 percent compared to the past three years.
Divorce and family law firm Stewart Law Group, which has an office in Scotts-dale, reports a similar trend.
“Year to date, we have had about a 10 percent increase in divorce-related clients,” said founder Scott David Stewart, adding that 12 to 15 percent of those who filed are in Scottsdale.
As for divorce inquiries, Stewart Law Group’s website traffic has nearly doubled this year, “and our divorce-related content page views are up nearly 250 percent,” Stewart said.
“While our total calls are on par with last year, it appears we are seeing the calm before storm, given how big our increase with our leading indicators,” he continued. “The one interesting fact about our call data is that people that are making formal inquiries are much more likely to move forward than in the past.”
According to a July survey published by Legal Templates, the quarantine “destroyed marriages in less than three weeks,” with couples in southern states especially likely to seek a divorce.
“With growing tensions between couples, we’ve seen a 34 percent increase in sales of our divorce agreement compared to the same period in 2019,” the study states. “Interest in separation during quarantine peaked on April 13 – a 57 percent increase compared to Feb 13, 2020.”
The data revealed that 58 percent pursuing a divorce during the pandemic were married within the last five years.
The rate of divorcing couples with children also increased over 2019 both nationally and locally.
“We are seeing more filing with parties with minor children compared to couples without minor children,” Cherney said, noting that Canterbury Law Group saw a 25 percent increase in divorce inquiry rates over prior years.
Stewart predicted that divorce filings will “increase substantially” over the next six to 12 months.
“Our website traffic has skyrocketed and that is typically a leading indicator about future divorce filings,” he said.
Stewart added that they’ve given away about 12 to 15 percent more of their free books on divorce.
One of Stewart’s most popular books, “The Arizona Divorce Handbook” tackles questions to ask before getting a divorce, parenting plans, child support and spousal maintenance, choosing an attorney, life after divorce and other topics.
“In divorce, it is unusual for one incident to create a consultation with our office. Rather, our data suggest that people usually research well in advance of actually calling to meet with an attorney,” Stewart said.
Cherney added: “Many couples, prior to the pandemic, simply had not been spending seven days a week together cooped up in a home or residence.
“Couples traditionally would leave the home for work and create connections and empowerment through their work, their friends, their faith. Now, with couples cooped up literally 24 hours a day in some states, it does not surprise me that challenges in communication and cohabitation would arise.”
The study adds that unemployment may have contributed to the pandemic-fueled increase, too.
Cherney noted that in addition to divorce filings, real estate litigation is starting to pick up “based on the tenants or landlords who can no longer pay their rent or their mortgages based on defaulting tenants or defaulting landlords who can no longer service their debt commitments.”
“Real estate is a marathon, not a sprint, so I anticipate we’ll see far more commercial real estate foreclosures in Q2, Q3 2021 and beyond,” Cherney said.
Stewart also saw an increase in order of protection and domestic violence-related calls.
“Additionally, we have been fielding a lot of calls regarding parental discord among parents that cannot decide whether to allow their kids to return to campus or use an at-home/online option,” Stewart added.