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Family Law

How Can You Protect Your Relationship From Coronavirus?

Protecting your relationship from coronavirus. Do not let COVID cause your divorce.

Believe it or not, we don’t actually want anyone to go through the process of separating from their partner. We understand that separation and divorce happen, and we’re here to help our clients navigate that, but we feel our clients’ pain along the way and understand that fear and emotions are very real factors that must be dealt with along with financial realities.

COVID-19 is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. This is new territory for all of us, and we are genuinely concerned that it’s taking a toll on everyone’s family… and we want to make sure that we help you prevent permanent damage to your relationship, if we can.

Even without couples being quarantined to their homes for the majority of the day and socially distanced from their friends and co-workers, we hear a repeating pattern of issues that arise in relationships that cause their ultimate demise. Being quarantined with your partner (and maybe your children, too) is bringing a lot of the issues we see every day to the forefront in an expedited fashion.

The first thing we see on a daily basis is a breakdown over finances. We are baffled by the number of clients that walk into our office knowing nothing about their financial situation. Sometimes it’s because our client is a stay-at-home parent and doesn’t have access to their partner’s income information. Other times it’s because our client is the “breadwinner” but doesn’t pay any of the household bills, and has no idea what the normal monthly expenses are. Frequently it’s because our client and their partner both have demanding careers and earn their own income but don’t hold joint accounts. Regardless of the reason for being blind to their family’s finances, this lack of financial involvement by a partner can cause irreparable damage to the relationship and make the divorce process more expensive.

Now is a great time to sit down and have a discussion about household income and expenses. Layoffs, furloughs, and decreases in income due to lack of business opportunities are impacting the majority of us. Deciding what purchases need to be prioritized and what can be postponed until a later date may help ensure that an unforeseen (or current) decrease in income is minimally devastating to your family’s ability to make ends meet for the next few months. One partner spending like nothing has changed while the other is worried about income slowing causes stress in any relationship, but especially a relationship that is already under stress from having daily routines severely disrupted.

Another issue that constantly causes a divide between partners is a difference in parenting styles. We all come into our relationships with different ideas about parenting. A lot of these ideas, good or bad, we learned from our parents. With new parents, we are often learning as we go. Due to our typical schedules, most couples only have the opportunity to converse with each other for a little while in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. Being at home all day with your partner and children means that every single parenting decision is under scrutiny from the other parent. Some parents are proactive, some are reactive. Some parents are laid back, others are high strung. Maybe your partner thinks something you’re doing is calculated to override what they did just minutes earlier when, in reality, you’re just reacting to a screaming child while simultaneously listening in on a conference call. Maybe you think your spouse is being critical of your parenting when they are simply attempting a different method since your child didn’t listen to what you said the first time. There is no time like the present to calmly articulate to your partner what they’ve done that’s upset you, and to ask them what you’ve done that’s upset them. If you are simply misinterpreting each other’s actions, that’s an easy fix. If you are truly being counterproductive to each other’s parenting, your children will benefit immensely from the two of you figuring out what issues require a united front and what issues can be handled differently by each parent. We often refer people to counselors, that we trust, for work on co-parenting skills and relationship skills.

The current conditions are putting extreme and immediate stress on everyone’s finances and everyone’s ability to co-parent, so we hope that you and your partner are willing and able to invest the time and energy in making sure that this temporary alteration to everyone’s routine doesn’t cause permanent damage for your relationship. It is often helpful to have a consultation with a lawyer to learn more about your legal rights in addition to learning more about your finances, your communication skills and your parenting styles. It is important to remember that having a consultation with us doesn’t mean you have to get divorced. It may help you avoid a divorce.

We truly understand that some people have been facing issues in their marriage for years leading up to being quarantined together, and we do not intend to imply that the current quarantine will be enough of a wake-up call to fix every relationship. If your relationship has become unhealthy and irreparable, we are here and available in-person, via video chat and for telephone consultations. We always advise a consultation before making big decisions such as a physical separation or even telling your partner you want to separate. Remember knowledge is power. We truly want to empower our clients with knowledge about their legal rights no matter what relationship path they ultimately choose.