I have a lot of empathy for those who are navigating divorce issues during a pandemic. As I reflect on these difficulties, I believe that many of the things we are doing to survive this pandemic are analogous to divorce, or even provide lessons for navigating a divorce or post-divorce issue.
· Social Isolation. As we are socially isolating during this pandemic, we are separating from family and friends. Divorce can also involve similar isolation from people we once knew, even including some friends and family. This separation from others can be difficult and cause people to become depressed and lonely. In both a pandemic and a divorce we need to take deliberate actions to combat the negative aspects of isolation. For example, in my family, we are reaching out to speak with loved ones and friends by phone or social media more often than normal. In a divorce, it is also important to have regular contact with friends and loved ones to support us.
· Boundaries. When we are going out into the world during this pandemic, we are being asked to maintain a six foot distance from others to “stay safe”. Divorce also requires that we apply boundaries to our relationships with others. Divorcing parents, in particular, must learn to apply and respect boundaries in their relationship so that they can remain co-parents after a divorce. Setting new boundaries allows divorcing parents to avoid conflict and retain some measure of social ability. This, in turn, can circumvent conflicts before they begin, which will preserve the mental health of all involved. Setting boundaries in divorce is of course not as easy as maintaining a physical six-foot distance from one another. But with practice, focus and sometimes even professional help it can be done.
· Getting by with less. In most divorces people end up with less financial support than they had when they were married. This requires an adjustment, just as many of us are facing reduced incomes or unemployment due to the pandemic. Preparing and budgeting for a change in income is important to help you make a less stressful adjustment. It is also important to budget for your divorce. The divorce process can be expensive depending on the approach you take. The more you fight and the less you compromise, the more it will cost you. Choosing collaborative practice and mediation can be a less expensive method to obtain a divorce.
· Washing our hands. If we go to a store, we are told to wash our hands when we get home. In other words, we need to remove the harmful stuff we accumulate from entering our homes and infecting us and our children. Similarly, divorcing parents need to wash their hands from the stress and conflict of divorce, because conflict causes serious long-term health issues for themselves and their children. It is not as easy as applying soap and water, but there is no shortage of people trained to help parents process this stress and conflict in a healthy way.
· Not relying on others to provide what we can do ourselves. In response to the pandemic people all over the country have started providing assistance to those in need. When hospitals did not have enough masks and face shields, people began making masks for them. In addition to causing shortages for hospitals, Covid-19 is also going to challenge the resources of our court system. Courts have been shut down for weeks, and restricted access to the courts is likely to be in place for the foreseeable future. When our courts re-open, they will be facing a backlog of orders, motions and hearings. Those who rely on courts to achieve a divorce are likely to face significant delays. Luckily, people don’t need courts to get divorced. People who choose collaborative practice and mediation can work out their divorce without courts and even without the need to leave their homes.
Cleland Collaborative Solutions is available to help you in this time of uncertainty. Call today for a free phone consultation at 586-493-6833 ext. 201.