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New Jersey Divorce Spike May Follow Spate of Virtual Affairs


Infidelity doesn’t always break a marriage, but it can undoubtedly cause tremendous strain. Our East Brunswick divorce attorneys are familiar with prior research showing that about one-quarter of all marriages suffer through some type of unfaithfulness. But there is new evidence to suggest that not only does a pandemic not stop it, it may be driving virtual infidelities that may not occur otherwise.

New evidence indicates an increasing number of Americans are having online affairs during the COVID-19 shutdowns, according to psychologists from The University of Tennessee Knoxville in an editorial recently published in the journal Family Process. Stress related to the pandemic is reportedly pushing relationships to the brink and compelling more people to reach out for comfort and reassurance from old flames and on dating apps. Those caught may face a tougher time reconciling with their spouses due to the unique current intersection of emotional, social and financial consequences. Once restrictions are eased, we may see an increase in cases of in-person infidelity.

Infidelity Increased by Isolation, Illusions Created by Social Media

Most affairs stem from some degree of dissatisfaction in the relationship, but they can’t be facilitated without temptation and opportunity. One might think opportunity would be reduced by pandemic-related lockdowns and social distancing guidelines, but technology is changing that.

In-person interactions may have dropped off, but technology and platforms like FaceTime and online dating apps have given dissatisfied, stressed-out spouses an outlet.

The researchers gleaned data from an unnamed dating website strictly for married people indicating there had been some 17,000 new subscribers to the site DAILY during the pandemic. Compare this to last year when there was an average of 1,500 new subscribers each day.

One survey conducted by the Kinsey Institute revealed that of 1,000 married individuals between the ages of 30 and 50, roughly 13 percent had reached out to an ex-partner at some point during the pandemic. Most said they were either having intimate relations with their ex or were attempting to rekindle the romance.

Impact of Infidelity – Virtual or Otherwise – on a Marriage

East Brunswick divorce lawyers recognize that regardless of an affair’s origins, the impact is generally the same: Suspicion, distrust and sometimes divorce.

This is not to say divorce is the inevitable outcome. In fact, some psychologists and marriage counselors have noted that while recovering from infidelity is unquestionably hard work, an affair can be the catalyst for addressing serious underlying issues that might have otherwise been left to fester.

But pandemic-related stress could make it tougher for some marriages to survive the fall-out. This includes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reported rise in mental health issues like depression and anxiety – problems that could be compounded by the devastation of an affair.

There is also a higher risk for increased conflict, aggression and intimate partner violence, compounded by a general lack of social support. Many couples may also face less access to resources like therapy that one would normally seek in the aftermath of such a devastating emotional hit.

Still, some may be reticent to file due to financial concerns. Currently, the U.S. unemployment rate is higher than ever. There are always going to be monetary concerns associated with divorce, but the pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented level of financial insecurity for many couples.

Those who decide the affair has spelled the end of the marriage may soon be asking how the fact of the affair might affect the divorce proceedings. The answer depends, but probably not much unless the cheating spouse siphoned marital assets to facilitate it. Fault grounds for divorce, as outlined in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2, are rarely used in New Jersey divorces anymore, with most couples opting instead to cite the more ambiguous irreconcilable differences.

New Jersey Divorce Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

Although divorcing does require some financial investment, our New Jersey divorce attorneys are committed to helping our clients navigate the process in a way that is financially smart. We don’t want money to ever be the reason someone feels trapped in an unhealthy marriage.

The more we can work out without the family court’s intervention, the less it’s going to cost our clients in the long run. When a marriage has genuinely run its course, we encourage mediation as a low-cost, low conflict way to reach an accord on issues like asset division, child custody, alimony and more.

We also continue to offer free consultations and other services remotely for the safety and well-being of our clients and the greater Middlesex County community.

If you have questions about mediation and divorce in New Jersey, our East Brunswick family law firm can help.

Contact us at (732) 810-0034 or email us through our website.

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