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I-Team: Divorce in the time of COVID-19, impacts and statistics

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being seen as we move further into the second year of the pandemic. One of the many things it has affected is marriages.

Generally, divorce rates are down across the country and our region, ranging from a 5 to 30 percent decrease.

“This is something we never experienced before at least in our lifetime,” Attorney Brian Vinsko, a family law expert said.

Vinkso says determining exactly what is going on with the divorce rates across the nation is challenging, if not impossible to figure out, for now.

“Specifically in Luzerne County between 2019 and 2020 there was a drop of about 40 cases filed in Luzerne County for divorce,” Vinsko said.

Last year, 688 couples filed for divorce, according to the Luzerne County Prothonotary Office. In 2019, that number was 727.

“The question is because the courthouse had been shutdown or people were really just really holding back and not proceeding with divorce, because of the COVID pandemic and that’s an issue we are not going to know until we see where 2021 takes us,” Vinsko said.

According to Vinsko, he is already seeing an uptick.

“Actually in 2021 I’ve seen an increase in calls proceeding with divorce,” he said. “Now whether that’s caused by COVID or if it’s just because they didn’t want to do it during COVID remains to be seen.”

The I-Team spoke with Attorney David Schwager, the president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He says there is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic forced courthouses to rethink how cases are filed, including divorce cases.

“Court processes have taken a beating. So many of our courthouses have been closed for various times, they resorted to remote access, using communication technology,” Schwager said. “Much of the technology didn’t exist at the start of the pandemic.”

Psychiatrist Dr. Matthew Berger says the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown may have had on marriages is still to be seen.

“The stress level is way up even for people who are coping pretty well with stress,” Berger said. “Levels are way up. It’s new environment and change is always hard, anytime you have change, it is difficult for people to adapt.”

Family law attorneys we spoke with say we should have clearer picture of the impact COVID-19 is having on marriages in the weeks and months ahead.

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