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COVID-19: Are divorces on the rise amid the pandemic?

The COVID-19 crisis is placing additional pressure on families and marriages creating what attorney Michelle Thomas is calling a perfect storm for divorce.

The COVID-19 crisis has created additional stress in many households across the nation. Layoffs and furloughs have added to financial strain and experts say the pandemic in some cases has created a perfect storm for divorce.

Google shared its trends tool with First Coast News that shows searches for information on divorce trending up throughout the summer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Divorce and family law attorney Michelle Thomas says she's seeing a lot of child custody disputes at her firm M.C. Thomas & Associates, couples are disagreeing on what activities children should be involved in during the pandemic and whether they should return to school or daycare. Thomas says she has noticed a significant increase in people seeking a divorce.

"Marriage is hard enough without any additional stressors," Thomas said. "You throw in COVID-19 and months-long of quarantine and being in each other's face that just makes marriage even harder. And that's what I'm seeing and I believe my colleagues are as well an intense uptick in the volume of calls because people need an escape. They need a way out."

Psychologist Tracy Alloway says if the marriage was already on the rocks the pandemic brought everything to the surface. She explains it's common that when people are in such conflict situations as a global pandemic they'll look for an escape. And mental health is a big part of the equation.

Alloway provides virtual counseling sessions and offers this advice, “I think it's important for us to stop and reflect and really think what do we appreciate about our significant other and is it worth fighting for? And really take that time before we just act out frustration.”

Thomas has filed countless divorces over the years and says communication is the key to making a marriage work even though a pandemic. Communicate constantly, effectively and respectfully. She also stresses the importance of showing your partner you appreciate them, saying a little bit of gratitude can go a long way.

Alloway shares insight on how to communicate and resolve conflict in a positive way.

"A good indicator of whether a relationship will be able to make it through is how we fight," Alloway said. "How we approach conflict. If we engage in things like stonewalling, criticism, these kinds of negative ways of interacting that make it very difficult for a relationship to weather the storm if you will. And sometimes it's harder to shift the focus and engage in a more positive way of approaching conflict when we're in such close quarters so something to keep in mind if you feel yourself kind of approaching that situation with your significant other when you're in close quarters maybe even go to the bathroom. Shut the door take a moment to regroup and think about how you want to approach the conflict. Shift your focus to recognize it does not conflict we should avoid it's how we approach the conflict that's important. And it's important to avoid things like stonewalling, criticism these are early indicators of a negative way of approaching conflict. 

She says take these things into consideration.

"As you take that breath think about five things you appreciate about your significant other... certainly a lot of relationships are struggling during this time. Mental health is a big concern sometimes the other party may not be set up to support the other person's mental health because you're struggling with your own issues right now during this very uncertain time. This could be a good opportunity for you to look inside a little bit and reflect on what is causing me to feel angry to feel upset. It's quite common that when you are in these conflict situations you want to look for a way out. Research shows one of the big indicators of a successful relationship is something called positive illusory affect. And like the name suggests - for a relationship to last we have a very positive almost illusion of your significant other. Viewing their quirks or idiosyncrasies in a positive light . Sometimes it's hard to do that when you're seeing those quirks all of the time. When you're around them all of the time. So all the more it's important to say hey I'm just going to take a little time, I'm going to read over here by myself or watch Netflix by myself. And just create that space if you're able to between yourself and your significant other."

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