Monday, April 27, 2020

Lawyers are seeing divorce queries pile up as coronavirus-induced lockdowns cause some couples to realize their marriages are on hopelessly rocky shores

(New York Post)

If fear of death was not depressing enough during the coronavirus outbreak, a surging number of couples are finding that their marriages might be crumbling.

That cheery news comes from a New York Post article titled "Coronavirus is making couples sick — of each other: Lawyers see divorces surge," by reporters Priscilla DeGregory and Laura Italiano:

Cooped-up New Yorkers are flooding lawyer phone lines with divorce inquiries — with an avalanche of filings expected once the courts re-open.

“People are realizing that they can’t stand each other,” said Manhattan lawyer Suzanne Kimberly Bracker, who like many in her field has already seen a coronavirus divorce uptick.

“In the middle of the night I got a call from a client who now realizes she has nothing in common with her husband but the children — and how he knows nothing about the children,” Bracker said of a marketing executive she reps.

“And she’ll be damned if she spends the rest of her life with him.”

Being forced into a state of lockdown is causing some marriages, perhaps already fragile, to crack:

Already-balky spouses are cracking under the strain of quarantine, lawyers say — including one Manhattan hedge fund manager who suddenly finds himself imprisoned in his Hamptons mansion with the wife, the kids, and a failing marriage.

“He’s called me up again and said, ‘Are we able to start the process yet?” matrimonial lawyer Paul Talbert says of the morose moneyman.

“He tells me, ‘The wife doesn’t understand now that I’m home 24/7, why can’t I carve out more time for the family,’” Talbert said.

“I’ve had to tell him we can’t file a divorce right now.”

Another call came in from a fashion company owner who’s been unhappy with her marriage for a long time, but who “has been hesitant to pull the trigger,” Talbert said.

Now that her family is trapped together in their New England second home, “she is itching to get a divorce.”

Money problems are also straining marriages.

“One of the main stresses that cause divorces — more than infidelity — is monetary stresses,’ said Manhattan divorce lawyer Steven J. Mandel.

“Along with people being confined in one place, people have lost 30 percent of their net worth, or people have lost their jobs,’ said Mandel.

“So that is putting people into a pressure cooker.”

Public-health experts already are bracing for clusters of mental-health problems once the virus outbreak abates. Many of those issues might play out in divorce courts:

The crisis is throwing couples’ existing differences of opinion into high relief.

Mendel got a call Friday from a wife who has suddenly discovered that her husband, from whom she is separated, is basically a coronavirus truther. Trouble is, they have kids in common.

“The father does not believe this COVID-19 situation is as serious as the media is making it out to be,” Mendel said.

“So when the child is with him, he’s not using any of the precautions… But there are no court orders [right now], so it’s the Wild West.”

Meanwhile, the looming shadow of mortality — the threat of sudden sickness and death that’s filling the news for the past month — is also prompting spouses to re-evaluate how they want to spend the rest of their lives.

For one middle-aged Manhattan wife, the coronavirus crisis was the perfect time to do something about her “hollow” marriage, said celebrity divorce lawyer William Beslow.

“She telephoned me today and she said she had experienced an empty feeling in her soul for some time,” said Beslow, whose clients have included Demi Moore, the Duchess of York and supermodel Adriana Lima.

“She realized now that she didn’t want to ever look back on her life and say to herself, ‘You were never fulfilled.’ People look at life a little differently now — I mean people are dying,” he said.

“And I think most individuals, particularly in New York, where there are so many cases, it’s forcing people to look within themselves and say, ‘Why am I staying in this relationship that I believe is not working?’”

There’s an added financial incentive to filing as quickly as the coronavirus clouds lift, and the courts reopen, notes Beslow.

On the day a divorce is filed, the value of some of a spouse’s most valuable assets — including their business and any self-managed stock portfolios — is basically set in stone.

So it will make far better sense, financially, for many spouses to file for divorce before those stocks and businesses start to rebound post-coronavirus, Beslow said.

“That is clearly on some peoples’ minds.”

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