The COVID-19 pandemic that we have all been living through for well over a year now has had many varying effects on people around the world. For many families, coping with lockdown has brought people closer together, stepping away from life’s distractions and giving them more time to spend together at home. For others, that precise situation of spending more time at home, as well as additional pressures around childcare, money and health, has placed an untenable strain on relationships.
Separation and divorce rates have been increasing around the world, with some experts warning that this phenomenon will not slow down any time soon, as the full after-effects of the pandemic make themselves known. Partnerships that are already under pressure can find themselves strained beyond repair with increased time spent together and worries coming far more to the fore when work or leisure options outside the home are suddenly curtailed. While separation can be incredibly painful and difficult to endure, how can couples work to lessen the impact and help smooth the way forward?
How can couples work to lessen the impact and help smooth the way forward?
Helping your children
First and foremost, it is important to help any children from the union or marriage, or who live with the separating couple, to cope with the changes that come with a partnership coming to an end. They will already have undergone unprecedented changes in their lives due to the pandemic, including remote learning instead of going to school, not being able to see friends and family members and getting to grips with technology like never before.
Take time to explain what’s happening in an age-appropriate way and reassure them that they will always be loved and looked after, no matter what happens. Find someone to talk to if they would rather speak to a third party and keep their school in touch with your situation so they can offer an additional support avenue for your children if necessary.
Dealing with ill health
Coronavirus has led to many people falling ill at varying degrees of severity. In addition, pressure on hospitals and healthcare providers has led to some routine check-ups and operations being postponed. In some cases, health conditions have also been relegated or even missed through lack of resources or people feeling nervous about coming forward to get symptoms checked out. If someone in the household is experiencing a medical condition or health issue, this must take precedence over any of the smaller details of separation.
Healthcare provisions need to remain in place, with any household changes relating to a separation carefully planned around ensuring that provision continues uninterrupted. Take care of everyone’s mental health and emotional wellbeing too – separation can be an intensely emotional time and it is vital to put the right level of support in place to help with this aspect of healthcare, such as counselling or wellbeing therapies, alongside any physical treatments or medications that may be required.
COVID-19 caused financial chaos for a huge number of people who either lost their jobs or businesses totally, were placed on furlough or who found that their insurance policies didn’t cover quite what they needed them to. Negotiating a separation or divorce at the same time as juggling income and expenditure in order to keep afloat is not easy. However, hiding from the problem will only make it worse, so it is vital to work out exactly what your finances are and how to manage and divide them in the event of a split.
Areas such as a mortgage or rental arrangements for the main place of residence, plus any savings, assets, pensions, business ownerships etc. need to be covered and agreements come to, in order to enable all parties involved to be able to maintain an appropriate lifestyle. It could be that engaging a solicitor or financial adviser for this work can remove much of the emotion and worry to make the way ahead clearer for everyone.
Knowing your rights
Separating at any time involves a lot of emotion, but especially so when it is caused by, or directly follows a major global event such as the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, however, it is important to keep your head and make sure that you are fully aware of the legalities around your responsibilities – and rights. For example, a married couple, or two people who have undergone a civil ceremony will be in a very different legal position to two people who have lived together as what is known in some circles as ’common-law’ spouses. Divorce brings with it different requirements and legal protections than for two people who have lived together for a while and are now agreeing to part ways.
Always consult a solicitor if you are at all unsure about what you are entitled to, from finances and living arrangements to the crucial area of child access and maintenance agreements. Never let your heart overrule your head in this area, as it is essential that each party can move forward with their rights acknowledged and the partnership dissolved in the best way for as many involved parties as possible.
Finally, talking about separation or divorce needn’t automatically mean that you have to follow through with it in the end. Keep on talking and try to understand each other’s point of view. Coping with lockdown has placed huge pressures on many, many people and this can lead to high emotions and rash decisions. Consider going for some counselling sessions, either in person or via video link. Talk to each other about what you want your future to look like – you may discover that you still have more in common than you might think.
Again, a third party arbitrator or counsellor could help you and your partner or spouse see things in a different way, or they could help make the first steps towards separation a little bit easier.