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Divorce rates up amid pandemic

Familiarity breeds contempt, but it may also strengthen some relationships. The pandemic is testing couples spending more time together at home.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Familiarity breeds contempt, but it may also strengthen some relationships. The pandemic is testing couples spending more time together at home.

Divorce rates have risen across the country since last spring. Legal document database LegalTemplates said it sold 34 percent more divorce agreements in March to June 2020 than the same period last year.

“In terms of our calls on a weekly and even daily basis, it definitely increased,” said Dave Schanbacher, a family law attorney based in York.

Schanbacher said he has been handling a lot more divorces since the start of the pandemic.

“A lot of the reasons are the same that they’ve always been: they’ve grown apart, or there’s some infidelity, just can’t live together anymore, there’s financial issues,” Schanbacher said.

Social distancing and now cold weather have forced people to spend more time inside at home. When couples spend 24/7 with each other, daily issues plus new pandemic stresses can spill over into their relationships.

“[My husband Jeremy] is working from home now,” said Susan McCullough, a stay-at-home mom in Lancaster. “He’s made our basement his office and that used to be kind of an outlet for me like with the boys if we needed a change of venue, but now we have to find other things to do.”

The McCulloughs decided to get out of the house Thursday to take their two sons, Maverick and Jameson, sledding for the first time.

The couple said family outings were one way they worked through the feeling of being stressed and cramped at home. They pointed out one bright side of working from home was they had more flexibility to do things together.

“I think it does put a strain on our marriage some, but at the end of the day, we’re dealing with what we have to deal with,” Susan McCullough said. “Honestly the extra time together as a family has been really nice.”

Marriage rates, too, are up in some places.

Lebanon County has issued 1,045 marriage licenses in 2020, the most of any year since 1975. The Lebanon County Register of Wills and Marriage Bureau was so inundated with marriage license applications that they developed an online application process in November.

“People have had the opportunity, or maybe they were forced to spend more time with each other and decided that it was time to pull the trigger on getting married,” said Lebanon County Register of Wills Brian Craig. “But it’s a great sign that people’s lives are continuing and good things are happening in our community.”

As Pennsylvania heads into several more weeks of COVID-19 restrictions, time together will continue to test—or strengthen—relationships.