VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The pandemic hasn’t been easy on couples.
By April, interest in divorce jumped by 34 percent, according to Legal Templates, a company that provides online legal documents.
Young couples took the biggest hit: 20 percent of couples seeking divorce were married within the past five years. That rate almost doubled 2019’s number.
The specific causes may vary, but the uptick clearly points to one overarching factor: the unique circumstances of COVID-19. Couples spent more time -- a lot more time -- together at home. Job and financial issues followed. And according to Psychology Today, when people are experiencing greater stress from outside of their relationships, they struggle more to problem-solve within their relationships.
And we are seeing the national trend reflected locally.
“Things are definitely busy,” said attorney Sheera Herrell from Hofheimer Family Law Firm in Virginia Beach.
Herrell has been handling divorce cases for more than 20 years.
“Usually this time of year, around the holidays, it becomes a slower period,” said Herrell. “But things are not slowing down.”
Courtrooms essentially closed down for divorce cases for almost two months in March. Couples looking to speed up the process of their separation were looking for alternative ways to finalize their divorce.
One particular option mentioned on the Hofheimer website caught our attention. It’s called “Weekend Divorce.”
Before couples reach an agreement, their case is technically "contested," whether it be over custody, support, retirement, or a house. When you negotiate or mediate then you reach a resolution and sign a contract. A case then goes from "contested" to "uncontested."
That process can take months the traditional way through the courts. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“The purpose, or the concept, behind this weekend process is to get the agreement reached,” said Herrell. “Because that really is the hardest part.”
Technically, you aren’t divorced in a weekend. There are certain requirements and timelines that need to be fulfilled in order to finish the process.
Herrell also says the firm has been moving away from the “weekend” idea, in a literal sense, to manage expectations during the pandemic.
However, she does agree that the idea of mediation for couples outside of court, if possible, can lead to much quicker and smoother divorces at a time when more couples are looking for a way out.