CA attorneys seeing divorce rates surge with couples stuck at home during COVID-19 pandemic

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, what happens when you're stuck at home all day with your spouse?
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, what happens when you're stuck at home all day with your spouse?

Some California attorneys say they are seeing a rise in divorce cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joe Wolch, a family-law attorney based in Walnut Creek, says not only are more people calling to ask about divorce, many are ready to file - immediately.

"I would say the phone is ringing much more," said Wolch. "Where they used to be able to get away from each other, during the days or in the evenings with their extracurriculars, but now they haven't had the opportunity. So now people are more acutely aware that they just can't stay together."

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In some cases, however, those attempts to divorce are complicated in additional ways by the pandemic.

One Southern California attorney noted that more courts are closed or operating under reduced hours and with fewer staff, making it more difficult to resolve legal issues such as child custody. And if one parent fears the other estranged spouse has been exposed to COVID-19, they may take action without waiting for the court's approval for a change in custody arrangements.

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Some sites report online searches for divorce-related information have increased more than 30% since March.

Some California attorneys have also seen an increase in cases involving domestic violence.

"It's much more serious when you're dealing with potential child custody or visitation issues or safety issues, whether it's the spouse or the spouse and the children," explained Elaine Le, a family attorney with San Jose's Hoover Krepelka LLP.

Another factor during this deepening coronavirus pandemic: People are becoming even more aware that life is short.

"Life might be too short to be too unhappy for too long," said Wolch. "So they're looking for options to make their life better, maybe their children's lives better and overall move forward."

That said, some unhappy couples may decide to stick together amid all the economic uncertainty, because getting a divorce doesn't come cheap.

Divorce attorney fees can run from $400 to $600 per hour.

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