Only time will tell if the coronavirus pandemic leads to an increase in divorce in Australia and around the world.
But the indications are not good with early signs that divorce rates are set to increase as psychologists report the nationwide shift to stay at home and indoors is putting pressure on households.
There has been marked increase in the incidence of domestic violence since lockdowns began.
The many pressures stemming from unemployment, financial uncertainty, lengthy lockdowns, to name but a few, have the potential to fracture even the best marriages.
Newly released figures (before COVID-19) placed Australia 19th in a study of divorced adults world-wide.
The study, out of Germany, looked at 87 countries and showed that Russia had the highest concentration of divorced persons – 1 in 154 followed by Belarus (1:171), the United States (1:189). Lithuania (1:208) and Jordan (1:229).
Australia’s rate of divorced adults was 1 of 287 while New Zealand ranked 25th with 1 of 300 adults divorced.
The study said that the 1970s shift to a ‘soul-mate’ model of marriage, based on fulfilment rather than obligation, propelled divorce rates in the Australia and the United Kingdom.
In Russia, the end of the Soviet Union sparked a rise in divorce as women were finally granted protection after separation.
Combined with an ongoing trend in early marriages, this in part explains Russia’s first-place position in the index, the study said.
Catholic countries rank largely at the bottom of the index with low rates of divorce. Ireland ranks in 81st place with divorce legalised in just 1995 and still contingent on conservative laws, like five years of separation. Chile ranks last in the index.
Divorce was only legalised in Chile in 2004 due to the influential role of the Catholic Church across Chilean society.
And now COVID-19 threatens to substantially boost the incidence of divorce worldwide.
Relationships Australia NSW chief executive Elisabeth Shaw saying not all households were enduring the coronavirus lockdown with success.
The clinical psychologist, according to the ABC, said she was not surprised by reports that divorce rates are rising around the world.
“Some people are trying to survive, and if there’s inequities around managing the home then all of those issues come out,” she said.
“When you’re forced together, you’re also forced to confront how you really feel about family dynamics so it can be a real decision-making time.”
Dr Shaw said the strain was even more pronounced for single-parent households.
Relationships Australia has established a dedicated phone line called ‘Time 2 Talk’ in response to an increase in demand for the organisation’s help.
The service provides advice for those in a challenging position with their loved ones.
In some cases, the re-emergence of gender stereotypes at home is fuelling relationship trouble, Dr Shaw said.
“Women have traditionally done the lion’s share of household work and now those sorts of inequities are in your face,” she said.
Hayder Shkara from Sydney’s Justice Family Lawyers, said that evidence is emerging that some households are buckling under the pressure
He said there has been a noticeable increase in people enquiring about divorce, and traffic to his firm’s website has risen by up to 20 per cent since March.
“People are telling us that being in close confines has accelerated the realisation that they don’t want to be with their partners anymore,” he said.
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