REBOUND: Fewer Idaho couples divorcing since start of pandemic

Marriage counseling now easier to access virtually
Posted at 11:46 AM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 10:32:42-05

BOISE, Idaho — The pandemic is putting relationships to the test.

From postponed weddings to months-long lockdowns, some places across the country are even reporting a rise in divorce filings. But in Idaho, it seems married couples are working through their troubles.

“There are tons of new couples reaching out to me,” licensed clinical social worker Wendy Barth said. “There are a lot of pressures on people right now.”

Barth works with couples in the Treasure Valley at Stay Strong Together and says impacts of the pandemic have been split about 50-50 among her clients, leaving some relationships strained while others thrive.

For those faced with relationship problems, Barth says most are seeing already existing issues amplified.

“If there’s a big disconnect in the relationship already, it’s really difficult to be right next to the person that you’re disconnected from 24/7,” Barth explained.

Statewide, fewer divorces were filed from March-December of 2020 than that same time period in 2019.

Number of divorces filed March-December 2019 and 2020

Divorce filings in Ada and Canyon counties, and statewide, saw a big drop last April when lockdowns were in full effect. It’s possible couples have put their plans to split on hold with in-person court services harder to access and the cost of divorce adding to existing financial hardships.

Divorce filings drop in April 2020 with lockdowns in full effect.

Whatever the reason may be, the new normal of virtual communication is making it easier for Idaho couples to work through their problems by accessing counseling from the comfort of their own couch.

“Marriage counseling is a lot more accessible because it’s all on Zoom,” Barth explained. “They don’t have to get a babysitter, they don’t have to drive downtown to my office, they can just log online.”

Although the last year has brought its share of unexpected troubles to many Idahoans, Barth says it’s been really good for some people, giving them an opportunity to slow down and appreciate time together they wouldn’t normally have.

“Some of these couples are telling me, ‘we’re doing better than ever and that’s because we can look at each other's faces, sit down and have dinner together or cook together, or just hang out and binge watch TV together,’” Barth said.