Coronavirus lockdown has put plans on hold for millions of us, from family holidays to house moves, but the impact is particularly challenging for those who were in the middle of divorce. Whether you were about to sell the family home to facilitate life apart or had only just started talking about going your separate ways, the stress of being confined to the house together in such circumstances and the uncertainty of how long it will last can be almost too much to bear.
It is worth remembering that many families are forced to live under the same roof during divorce, even when there isn’t a pandemic, simply because they can’t afford to move on until the family home is sold. We are used to supporting our clients through this tense period and the following tips on how to survive in lockdown during divorce are based on our experience with families in those kinds of situations.
1. Plan your space
One of the things that is very different right now, compared to families who are living together during divorce in normal circumstances, is the fact that most people are at home during the day. This can cause tension in any family and is particularly hard when there are already relationship problems. The lockdown gives families the perfect excuse to plan how the space within the house is used by everybody, making sure each person has time to themselves to watch what they want on TV, enjoy a relaxing bath, read a book, do a virtual exercise class or catch up with friends on a video call. Booking out your daily living room slot will give you welcome respite from the inevitable stresses of living in lockdown during divorce.
When everyone is busy coming in and out from work, school and activities, it is much easier to get by communicating about practicalities, such as who is picking the kids up from the childminder. The stripped back lives we are leading right now mean that none of us can drift through the days in this way. You won’t be able to avoid seeing each other around the house completely so it is going to be really important to keep talking to each other, even if it’s just to discuss the children’s dinner. Collaboration makes life after divorce, particularly co-parenting, much easier so it is worth using the current situation to develop good communication if at all possible.
3. Respect one another
If it really isn’t possible to be civil to one another, you can at least try hard to respect one another’s privacy and space. Perhaps agree that you will cook and eat with the children on some nights and separately by yourself on others. This gives both parents quality time with their children without the stress of trying to do everything together.
4. Who pays for what
Just at a time when you were planning to divide your finances, you are suddenly forced to keep sharing household bills as well as living space. You may also have the added complication of one of you having lost income. Whatever future financial arrangements you had discussed, it is important to have an open and frank discussion about the current circumstances and how you will manage them. Who will pay for the food? What if the TV or broadband package needs changing during lockdown? Try to reach an agreement between yourselves and don’t forget that your family lawyer is there to help and advise you too.
5. Put your children first
This is the golden rule in any separation and it is particularly important right now when your children will be adapting to the change and uncertainty caused by both divorce and Covid-19. Make sure that your behaviour reflects an understanding of how they are impacted by all this and keep talking to them and reassuring them.
6. It will end
The current situation is hard – but it is temporary. Lockdown will pass and you will be able to move forward with your plans to separate. In the meantime, your life will be easier if you do what you can to make life under one roof as bearable as possible for everyone, including your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
To speak to one of our friendly solicitors for a confidential chat give us a call today on 01423 594680.
Carol Jessop is an experienced family lawyer specialising in finding practical solutions to resolve complex financial arrangements, protecting assets and obtaining emergency orders to provide personal protection or prevent the removal of children.
Carol has over 30 years’ experience in family law and is recognised by her clients and peers as highly knowledgeable and compassionate.
Everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.