Divorce During Covid
Getting a divorce during Covid has turned into quite the complex situation. Many of my friends and colleagues have asked how the pandemic is impacting my business as a divorce coach and how shelter-in-place is probably a catalyst for an elevation in divorce filings.
I have read just about every article recently written about the impact of the coronavirus on divorce with a furrowed brow. Even though predictions of divorce post-COVID-19 vary wildly, the consensus of opinion by the “experts,” is that pandemic is a precursor for a rise in divorces. These sanitized predictions may be based strictly on what would be considered common sense. Just about everyone I know has said, somewhat comically, how divorce is going to escalate because of the pandemic. I am not sure how anyone has gathered accurate data on divorce statistics while we are clearly in crisis. As a Divorce Coach, whose daily sphere is shrouded in divorce, my concern is more about the people and not the numbers.
From my vantage point, it is the pain that each scenario creates is what matters. For those people who have been considering divorce and still reside with their spouse, the pandemic has escalated the problems that drove them to consider divorce in the first place. Tempers have flared, doors are being slammed, relegation to different parts of the house for emotional and not social distancing is happening more than when not in a pandemic. The “normal“ stress of being locked up in the house has been magnified by being cooped up with someone one doesn’t want to look at let alone live with anymore is an ongoing scenario in the days of coronavirus.
What About Those Who Recently Filed for Divorce?
There are people who already made the decision to divorce prior to the pandemic, and already physically separated from their spouse. They filed for divorce and had mediation, settlement conferences, custody evaluations, and divorce hearing dates scheduled with their court jurisdictions spread over the late winter throughout the spring. They clung to these dates as bridges to closure they so desperately want. Unfortunately, many courts throughout the United States have closed for mediations, conferences, hearings, and trials except for essential cases. Divorce is not high on the necessity legal Richter Scale. Those people embroiled in divorce waited with great anticipation for the scheduled dates with the courts; dates that would progress them through the divorce with pending remedies such as custody arrangements, property settlements, alimony, and child support along the way. Now all of that is gone – for the present time. What defines the present time? The answers uniformly are — no one knows for sure. It is this uncertainty that contributes to the increase in anxiety and depression amongst people going through a divorce.
Current Challenges Dealing with Contempt in Divorce Cases
Many people have encountered contempt of pending or already finalized divorce decrees. Child support and alimony, although not legally forgiven due to coronavirus, is being disregarded by many people using the virus as an excuse to avoid their responsibilities. Under non-pandemic circumstances, a contempt filing could ensue with remedy. With the courts operating under the sparest of situations, those filings are not possible. Pre-existing pandemic custody battles have escalated into parental alienation scenarios. Although most states still enforce shared custody guidelines as long as both parents have been asymptomatic for fourteen days, the violators are keenly aware that enforcing those parameters is almost nonexistent, at this time, hence, many children have been separated from one of their parents for too long with no signs of this changing any time soon.
According to The New York Times, “mounting evidence suggests that domestic abuse is becoming more frequent and more severe as a world in pandemic locks down.” This is very disconcerting because many shelters for abused women and families have been closed. There are resources for help, but they are limited which compounds the rising cases of abuse.
There Are Many Scenarios for Divorce During Covid
You can see from the handful of scenarios I have just presented that people are faced with many challenges while they are facing, in the process of or within the aftermath of divorce. For each scenario, I have heard so many more. The plethora of options we, as coaches, could assist our clients with have steadily become closed doors – literally and figuratively. Our job is to support our clients at these uncertain times and not make assumptions, predictions, or any proclamations about what the impact the pandemic will have on divorce. The supposition that the divorce rates will rise after the pandemic speaks to the fact that after people are in close quarters together for extended periods of time, the test of the strength of their relationship is challenged with several failures to be expected. That may be true. The real question that bears asking is will the divorce rate exceed statistics in the long haul or will there just be an uptick soon after we get back to a semblance of normalcy to then see a flattening of the divorce curve? I will leave that data to the statisticians.
In the meanwhile, my answers on how the pandemic has impacted divorce is predicated on what I hear from the First Responders of divorce – those on the front line facing the loss of their marriage, dealing with their children without support, not receiving child support, being the recipient of custody order violations and domestic abuse victims. Their voices are shrouded in anxiety, fear, frustration, and depression; trying to be hopeful while each day the window of hope seems to close. They aren’t statistics, predictions, or assumptions. They are people who have loss, fear, and anxiety – real people whose problems are exacerbated by the pandemic. We will have to wait and see if the pandemic is a catalyst for divorce. In the meanwhile, I will continue to support and coach those who are going through divorce, with or without a pandemic.