There has been much news coverage about how China’s divorce filings spiked after their periods of quarantine and lock down ended including in articles and Bloomberg, the Daily Mail and many other publications. In fact, in response to our own stay at home orders/working from home/shut down of the courts in large part, in a bit of gallows humor, I have joked that this is the divorce lawyer’s silver lining of corona virus. As I previously blogged, whether or not the pandemic leads to new divorces, it will likely lead to many motions to modify and/or enforce support orders.
Perhaps this phenomenon has something to do with the old expression “familiarity breeds contempt, the first recorded use of which was in Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee (c. 1386). Obviously, it is more than that. We are in unprecedented (that word again) times containing real fears of illness and death; real sorrow from the loss of acquaintances, friends and family; real fears of economic pain that will no doubt hit everyone in one way or another, while cooped up in a home for day after day, week after week; and the stress of having to home school your children and try to work from home at the same time. In a time where even getting groceries now requires wearing a mask and one of the most valuable commodities is toilet paper (though some might say alcohol), despite the bad attempts at humor, there is no downplaying the real stress the people are under.
But sadly, marital discord and divorce are not the only side effects of the pandemic. Domestic violence is too and I have seen numerous articles about this including an April 6, 2019 New York Times article by Amanda Taub entitled A New Covid-19 Crisis: Domestic Abuse Rises Worldwide. Like a sledgehammer, her article starts:
Add another public health crisis to the toll of the new coronavirus: Mounting data suggests that domestic abuse is acting like an opportunistic infection, flourishing in the conditions created by the pandemic.
An article by Scott Neuman on NPR entitled, Global Lockdowns Resulting in ‘Horrifying Surge’ in Domestic Violence, U.N. Warns, states:
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, citing a sharp rise in domestic violence amid global coronavirus lockdowns, called on governments around the world to make addressing the issue a key part of their response to the pandemic.
Aside from the abuse, because people are with their abuser hour after hour, day after day, the ability to seek help or even confide in friends in family members is all that much more difficult. That said, victims should protect themselves and call the police if necessary to seek a restraining order. There are also resources such as the New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline (1 (800) 572-SAFE (7233)) available 24/7 and many others. If a Temporary Restraining Order is granted, the Order can contain other provisions for temporary financial relief, parenting time, etc. While there was and is a fear that false or flimsy domestic violence complaints could be made to get a leg up in a divorce proceeding where the parties remain in the same home, especially where final hearings were pushed off indefinitely, courts are starting to set up for virtual domestic violence hearings via Zoom. Also, anecdotally, I have heard that court’s have been hearing emergency applications to, at the very least, address parenting time for a parent put out of a home on a Temporary Restraining Order.
In any event, even though these times are difficult, no one has to accept real domestic violence and resources exist to protect true victims in cases where domestic violence is occuring.
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973) 994-7501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.