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Lockdown and Divorce

Divorce is always seen as a taboo in India. Moreover, the long period of litigation and the cumbersome process of hearing is very undesirable. Indians, in any way, prefer to avoid divorce. It's old news that the pandemic is affecting many of our core relationships. But lawyers, therapists and academics are starting to get a clearer understanding of the multiple factors feeding into the Covid-19 break-up boom and why it looks set to continue into 2021.

As the coronavirus continues to interrupt lives, facing unique challenges has become the new normal. Some obvious effects of the outbreak are the impacts on the economy, our education systems, and the environment - but it seems the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders throughout India have also managed to wreak havoc on the nation's marriages. There has been talk amongst relationship experts and family attorneys that divorce rates spike post-pandemic when courts started operating again.

Some couples who have been stuck at home were forced to interact and engage with each other in different ways. They may have had to address issues or confront subjects they were able to avoid by engaging in their regular routines, working, and socializing.

The overall stresses of the pandemic - financial, emotional, and physical - are forcing some people to take a hard look at their partners. Tensions are high, and there's nowhere to go. The truth is, it's already established that spending more time together, in close quarters, can increase the chance of divorce. One of the first indicators of not-so-happy married lives is the increasing cases of domestic violence. In a normal situation, the victim can get away from the violence and stay somewhere safer, but lockdown made the victims more vulnerable. As a result, the violence experienced a surge.

The COVID mandated lockdown in India saw a simultaneous rise in divorce and child custody cases. During the lockdown period in India, Mumbai, which witnessed the highest number of COVID cases, also saw an equal swelling in the number of cases filed for divorce and subsequent child custody. Delhi acquired the second spot.

According to city advocates, there has been a 30 to 40 per cent increase in the petitions moved before the family courts in the Port cities in the last three months. About a dozen petitions are filed every day in these courts. This is in contrast to seven or eight petitions moved daily in the city. A clear threefold rise in the number of divorce cases in some of the first-tier cities of India during the lockdown demonstrates the increasingly strained relations.

And coronavirus was a significant contributor to that. A lawyer search platform, Lawrato has noted that about 6 out of the 10 calls they receive in a day is about divorce. Another similar website, Lawyered has experienced a 20% spike in divorce cases since the lockdown. At the same time, it cannot be denied that lockdown has brought many couples closer and, the current graph of the baby boom bodes well with it. As per advocates, couples seeking divorce are mostly younger ones, with less than five years of marriage.

"Infidelity, extramarital affairs, physical and psychological incompatibility, over indulgence in pornography leading to unrealistic expectations and dissatisfied sexual life, financial insecurity and job losses, altercations with in-laws and harassment by them during prolonged stay at home are the main reasons for seeking of divorce. Although there is not much data on the number of divorce cases after the lockdown ended, successful counseling can stop the rising figures.

However, there is one more aspect to it. Many couples without better reach would have found it too difficult to file divorce cases. So, apart from the hasty divorces, the inevitable ones would finally culminate, once we try to return to normalcy, raising the overall divorce rate.

Although we do blame coronavirus for this, it can never be sufficient to break a successful marriage. Moreover, being stuck at home anyway takes a toll on our mental health. In such circumstances, resentment or bitterness in relationships is completely normal. And if not properly guided, the rancor can get aggravated and finally lead to divorce.

Written By: Vibhuti Chaturvedi

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