Lockdown split: Bay Area sees spike in divorce filings, domestic abuse cases amid pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The longer the pandemic stretches, the more strain it's putting on relationships. Attorneys are seeing a spike in consultations and divorce filings. Mental health is an important aspect of Building A Better Bay Area.

Rare are couples who don't encounter a few relationship issues, but 10 months into the pandemic, divorce attorneys say some couples have reached a breaking point.

"The consultations have increased at least by 50% if not more. I would say the amount of clients who retain and file for divorce have increased by a third," said James Hoover of the Hoover Krepelka family law firm in San Jose.

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Everyone working at home, kids taking classes online, limited social interaction and possible job losses created a pressure cooker environment.

"They had the personal freedom, they had economic prosperity, and they didn't have the external stress of the COVID crisis, and so it has been a catalyst," said Hoover.

Pre-COVID, it may have been easier to mask relationship issues. Factor in COVID, and pressure can build up and lead to violence. Courtney Brown is a licensed marriage and family therapist with the Brown Therapy Group in Campbell.

"Irritability is higher.. anxiety, depression, and we see a lot of anger. People respond to those things with anger. So we've seen an uptick in domestic violence and also child abuse," she said.

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With the stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, many close relationships are being put to the test.

The Hoover Krepelka law firm says requests for restraining orders are rising. However, counseling is also encouraged.

"Counseling isn't a box to check so that you can move on to a divorce," said attorney Hoover. "It's something that you should be committed to, working on your relationship and yourself."

The uncertainty over when the pandemic will end adds stress on fragile relationships. So knowing when to get help is key.

"It is difficult, and I think we all need help with it," noted family therapist Brown. "So being able to acknowledge that we can't do this alone and ask, reach out, ask for help from anybody from therapists or just family members or friends. Anybody."

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