COVID-19 & DIVORCE

  Trapped Inside With the Spouse You Were Just About To Leave

It has been months since I first heard the terms “social distancing,” “self-quarantining,” and “self-isolating.”  Before the end of February, when COVID-19 first woke the nation's consciousness to the seriousness of what was about to happen on our side of the planet, I implemented a new protocol for all clients who came to my office for mediation sessions.  For the first few days, it was a simple change: a mandatory stop in the bathroom for some serious hand-washing.  But it soon became clear that this would not be enough.  Within days, I put an end to all in-office sessions and began to dip my toe into the world of video-conferencing.  Initially, it was a necessary change in order to bring existing clients to the conclusion of the mediation they had begun in my office.  Today, my computer monitor, microphone and webcam have replaced comfortable guest chairs, a desk, and a printer.  

This is the new environment in which I conduct the work I have been doing for decades.  The work is the same.  Only the “ room” has changed.  It has gone from real to virtual.  Initially, I worried that the hardware would interfere with the mediation process.   I worried that the technology might distract me from the work I needed to do for my clients while we were in the "conference room" together.  I worried whether the nuances in facial expressions or tones of voice would get missed behind the coldness of the equipment that stood between us.  But I had worried without cause.  Mediation is about what it has always been about: the clients.  

The pandemic has introduced some new issues into mediation. For example: how to co-exist in isolation with a spouse you were just about to leave.  The living arrangement in which people now find themselves is dictated much more by the odds of contracting the virus if they leave, than it is by the certainty of continuing the unhappiness if they stay.  In the context of this pandemic, a decision to leave may not bring the desired result of peace and normalcy. It might bring sickness or death instead.  The internal debate goes something like this:  Stay put.  Leave.  Stay put.  Leave.  “Stay put” is the best shot at long term survival.  “Leave” is much riskier.  Maybe deadly.  So the decision is usually - but not always - "stay put."  Peace and normalcy will have to wait until it is safe to leave.  But that does not mean you can’t take steps forward toward your divorce while you wait.  You can be working towards that end through video-conferencing your mediation - and more.  You can actually complete the divorce process, securing a judgment of dissolution of marriage.

This pandemic is probably not forever.  Long term?  Very likely.  Forever?  I have not yet seen a scientific answer to that.  So, as hard as it may be to hold onto a vision of what the future will look like post-COVID-19, it is important for each of us to take whatever steps we are able, in order to be in the best place possible when the last day of isolation is behind us, and when we are allowed to hug a friend again.  

That day WILL come.  Where will you be in your life’s journey when it does? 

Be well.  Stay safe.  

Ellen


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