Quarantining with family is hard, but imagine being trapped with your spouse’s ex, his kids from a former marriage, and your mother-in-law. Mary-Kate Olsen and Olivier Sarkozy found family pressures to be too much, and split shortly after Sarkozy brought his ex-wife, Charlotte Bernard, their two children, and his mother from New York City to the Bridgehampton home he shared with Olsen, to quarantine with them. 

After months of quarantine, the former actress, 34, is said to have reached her tipping point and requested an emergency court order to quicken the divorce process. The original request was rejected due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Olsen was finally able to officially file for divorce in late May, when the courts opened to non-emergency filings. 

Now that courts are officially open, matrimonial lawyers expect the number of people considering divorce to increase dramatically.

Angela G. Kim, Esq., a matrimonial attorney with Hartmann Doherty Rosa Berman & Bulbulia, shares why some couples are deciding to part ways, “COVID has forced people to re-set or re-examine their lives, together and individually.  The time spent together in quarantine has resulted in self-reflection and propelled a spike in couples starting the process to ‘de-couple.’  In these unprecedented times, fundamental flaws in relationships have become more apparent, and further exacerbated by high levels of stress, tension and anxiety, which have led to a breakdown of marriages.”

Experts agree that when people are on edge, they are more likely to be aggressive or act out, and increased tensions and heightened emotions are also spurring bad behavior in marriage and divorce, as we saw in Olsen and Sarkozy’s separation. Without Olsen’s consent, Sarkozy opted to not renew the lease on their home in Gramercy Park, NYC, and gave Olsen a deadline of May 18th to collect all of her belongings, which was nearly impossible for her to accommodate during the pandemic, with New York on pause. 

People magazine secured a copy of the petition, and in the document, Olsen shared her worry about being able to collect her belongings from their New York City apartment. Mary-Kate added that she’s “gravely concerned that my husband will dissipate, dispose of and/or secret not only my separate property belongings, but also our marital property belongings that are in the Gramercy Apartment… My husband is trying to force me out of our home by his failure to renew the lease on the Gramercy Apartment, which he terminated without my consent.”

Davon Barrett, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst at Francis Financial, shares that what is known as divorce bullying is more common than most realize. “Divorce bullying is used to exert power over the other spouse. Often, the victim is held hostage, financially, and given limited access to the marital funds, creating a hardship to pay for food, shelter, and everyday bills.” 

While Olsen was estimated to have a net worth of $250 million in 2019 and could very quickly go out and rent her own apartment, most women do not have anywhere near the wealth that she has, and cannot fully support themselves without their partner. 

Barrett continues, “The best defense is a good offense, and that means stockpiling cash in your name, if you can, so that you are not kept captive by your spouse during the divorce process.”

Many expect that divorces will become more gruesome and messier during this COVID pandemic, possibly even worse than Olsen and Sarkozy’s split. However, as ugly as it gets, we can take comfort in the adage that the only constant in life is change. As American labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, who went through a divorce, herself, said, “It always gets worse before it can get better. But it will get better. Like everything else, and like our past struggles, at some point we win, but before that win, there’s always that loss that spurs us on.”