Tragedies and disasters that strike families often lead to divorce. Now, months after Hurricane Michael hit Florida, a spike in divorces is expected.

A review of the court records in Bay County, the epicenter of Hurricane Michael, shows that divorce rates slightly decreased in the five months after the hurricane, compared to the same time period the prior year.

That could be because those months were spent picking up the pieces from the hurricane. There was too much to do in finding a new place to live, settling the children and arranging to rebuild.

But now that things are starting to settle down, the stresses the hurricane spawned, when combined with past problems, could culminate in a divorce filing for many couples, experts say.

After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, divorce rates went up 30 percent in Dade County. Divorce rates in South Carolina also experienced a one-year spike after Hurricane Hugo, as did rates in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Social researchers cite the cause for the increase as stress and also the opportunity to begin anew with a clean slate. Many other disaster survivors choose to split their insurance settlement money and go their separate ways instead of rebuilding a life together.

Under any circumstances, the end of a marriage is sad for a couple and their children. Existing problems can be compounded when a natural disaster strikes. Before taking any action to file for a divorce, make sure it is the right decision for you and your family. Once you decide, your Clearwater family law attorney can advise you on how to proceed with child custody, property division and spousal support.