The Divorce Pandemic and Hope for 2021
No one will dispute that this is probably one of the hardest years in decades. It’s not that there haven’t been tough years in the past, it is just in most of our lifetimes, this year has been grueling. It is tough partly because we miss our lives: hugs & affection, our friends, having a drink and dinner without fear or anxiety, travel and so much more. The biggest reasons it is difficult for most people stems from the “no light at the end of the tunnel” concerns.
DIVORCE/PANDEMIC SIMILARITIES–The correlation between divorce and the pandemic are pretty similar. When a person goes through a divorce, there is often a loss of friends and family as allegiances change. The hugs and affection one gets from their children and others can change and become more difficult in a time where children are torn between two parents and friends and family feel the strain. The fear and anxiety that clients go through when they go through a divorce is life changing. Clients and children go to therapy for the first time in their lives and the stigma from mental health use and maybe even medication to assist with the trauma of a divorce, is scary and intimidating to most people. What attorneys see as a tool and necessity to navigate the emotions of the divorce, which is similar to a death in the family, is daunting to most people.
THE DIVORCE FALLOUT -As divorce lawyers we saw quiet and calm in spring of this year. The Fall brought an overwhelming surge of divorce/separation inquiries and activity. We are seeing a rise in divorce filings and domestic violence. The thought of having to quarantine with a spouse who is an addict, violent, verbally degrading or otherwise, has pushed people to move towards action versus “hanging in there” until the children emancipate. The reality is that everyone is at home—mom, dad, kids, grandparents and others which makes for a crowded household. If you add homework, school zoom, office work, zoom meetings, cooking, cleaning, laundry, pets and everything else, this is overwhelming for the healthiest families.
ANXIETY-If this were a short term situation, we may have hunkered down and rallied through the quarantine. The reality is that we don’t know when this virus will be defeated and citizens will feel safe again to do the most mundane tasks. The anxiety of not seeing the” light at the end of the tunnel” in a divorce case is similar to what we are all experiencing currently. Can we celebrate our child’s wedding in 20201? Can we take that trip to California? Can I schedule my surgery in 2021? There are no guarantees or definitive answers just like we cannot tell our clients they are guaranteed to get custody of the children, whether we can promise them that they can stay in the marital home and whether they can maintain their previous lifestyle.
HOPE—During this pandemic, we are also being told that if we stay the course, wear masks, keep social distance, stay home, don’t attend large gatherings, and so on, that we can defeat this virus. We can expect that our lives will go back to “normal” (whatever that is), and there will be better times ahead. As attorneys, we reassure our clients that there are better days ahead. We say “hang in there” because life will go on after the divorce. And guess what? It is true! We can’t see our old lives at this moment in time, but we know that with the vaccines rolling out, that there is hope for the future. Our clients, in their heart, know that there is hope as they have friends and family that have travelled the same road and have come out of their divorces stronger and often in a better place.
As Nora O’Donnell says at the end of her nightly news show, “stay positive and test negative. “ We hope our clients stay positive and also stay well. Here’s to a better year in 2021!