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More divorces after COVID-19? California attorney says 'Absolutely'

An attorney said his firm has had 1,500 divorce consultations in just the past three weeks.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Divorce attorneys are predicting a surge in cases nationwide once the stay-at-home order is lifted.

"If your marriage isn't in a great place, it might be you're pouring gasoline on a fire by being around each other 24/7," said divorce attorney Jason Hopper. 

He's part of the law firm, Cordell & Cordell, a national law firm with an office in San Diego. He said they've been getting so many calls, they had to add extra hours. 

"In the past three weeks, we've averaged about 500 new consultations each week," said Hopper.

He said that's twice the number of calls compared to this same time last year.

Right now the courts in San Diego County are only accepting emergency filings. So for now, some spouses are getting all of their paperwork ready to file once the courts re-open.

"We hear that absence can make the heart grow fonder," said Hopper. "What we've found is the opposite can be true when we have couples spending a lot more time together than in years prior. For a lot of folks, they're getting a preview of what retirement may look like, and unfortunately for a lot of folks they're finding they don't really like it."

Hopper said some of the calls they're getting are from wealthy clients who held off on divorce before and are now considering going through with it because of the current economic climate.

"For a lot of cases, the date of separation or date of filing is what's going to control the ultimate property division," said Hopper. "So it may lead to a lower settlement."

For those who are choosing to move forward with divorce, Hopper had this advice: "What we're telling a lot of prospective clients is, there's probably going to be a backlog. If this is something you need to do, maybe it makes sense to get ahead of the tidal wave of litigation that might be coming."

Besides getting calls about divorce, Hopper said they're also getting a lot of calls about custody disputes. 

He said one parent may not want to follow custody orders, using the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason. He said in some situations law enforcement has had to intervene.

RELATED: Is the coronavirus quarantine taking a toll on your marriage?

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RELATED: Coronavirus in San Diego and California: Latest updates and news

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According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, as with any other respiratory illness:

Know how it spreads: 

There is no vaccine

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus

It is thought to spread mainly from person-person between people in close contact

And believed to be spread by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes

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Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds

If soap and water aren't available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol

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Put distance between yourselves and others

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Stay home when you are sick

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Immediately wash your hands after coughing and sneezing

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe

You can find information on disinfecting and cleaning on the CDC's How to Protect Yourself page.

The California Department of Public Health has issued guidance on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

The County of San Diego has made face coverings mandatory for those working with the public including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and similar businesses.

While officials say these face coverings are not a substitute for practices like social distancing and handwashing, there is evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Officials do not recommend the public use N-95 or surgical masks which are needed by health care workers and first responders.

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