The number of couples who filed for divorce jumped by 30 per cent year-on-year over a few-week period in April in Helsinki. (Timo Jaakonaho – Lehtikuva)


THE NUMBER of divorce filings increased by roughly 30 per cent year-on-year during the coronavirus-disrupted spring in Helsinki, reveals a report published by a government-appointed expert panel.

It would be premature to draw any far-reaching conclusions based on an increase – however sharp – over only a few-week period in April, Marika Jalovaara, an adjunct professor of economic sociology at the University of Turku, reminded Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

Jalovaara stated to the newspaper that the effects of the exceptional spring on divorce filings should not be examined until data is available also for May and June.

The number of divorce filings peak typically a few times a year, after the longest holidays, in January and August.

“People don’t want to file for divorce just before Christmas, even if they were already considering it. And so they file for it in January. As Finland is on holiday in July, people similarly file for divorces in August,” she told. “This may be linked to the fact that when you spend a lot of time with your family during holidays, there may be a contrast between your expectations and reality.”

This spring was similar to the holidays in that sense: families had more time to spend with each other and possibly develop problems.

“The coronavirus crisis is also linked to various stress factors and seeds of conflict,” Jalovaara added, pointing to differences of view between parents about what to do to prevent contracting the coronavirus and financial concerns kindled by temporary or permanent lay-offs.

“When all sorts of stress factors pile up, it tends to accelerate the divorce process.”

The coronavirus emergency may also have had other kinds of effects on families: Couples who had already decided to divorce may have postponed moving apart. There has also been speculation about the kind of impact couples spending more time together will have on the birth rate.

“This time period may also have powers that boost the birth rate, but probably the forces decreasing it are stronger,” said Jalovaara. “Fewer relationships are started, the divorce rate is rising, fertility treatments are on hold and just in general people plan starting a family when the future looks bright. The coronavirus has certainly not improved the situation.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT