There has been a steady increase in predictions that a wave of family law cases will spike post-COVID-19. This prophetic murmuring has also been coupled with the reality that the family court system will be unable to handle the deluge of pent-up cases.
Both are likely true and will inevitably contribute to the soon approaching corona confusion in the courts.
But I am not here to repeat what is now common knowledge. I’m here to try and offer proactive solutions to minimize the carnage.
First, the hope. What I hope is that COVID-19 teaches us that we are stronger than we think. (Not richer than we think. We are all now screwed financially in one way or another for many years to come.)
I’m talking about mental toughness.
The pandemic has hopefully shown us that we can endure the pain a bit longer than we thought we could before.
I think this equally applies to relationships. Do we really need to pull the plug on the marriage or can we try a bit longer and harder to make it work for the sake of your partner and your children? Sometimes we cannot, but sometimes we give up a bit too early without considering the ramifications.
Therefore, think deep before ordering the Uber to divorce court. Can you make it work without the marriage counsellor, without the financial planner? Just you and the one that you planned to stay with when you said I do. Can you find that inner resolve, that self-sacrifice, that honesty to admit your faults, and the self-discipline to start making the changes that your spouse has been telling you about for years?
It takes humility. It takes a real man or a real woman to admit their vulnerabilities. So, what better time than COVID-19 to look inside and discover the inner strength to change yourself and fight for your relationship like you’ve never done before.
Second, the nudge. Let’s virtually nudge a few people who are planning to bring a family law matter to court.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that a lot of things that we thought mattered, don’t. The most stylish clothes, the trendiest restaurant, and (dare I say) the perfect relationship.
It’s no different when marriages fall apart. You can do it perfectly, or you can do it with a bit more humility and humanity. For example, is equal parenting time the proper goal? Or should you rather focus on the effect the fight to get to 50/50 will have on your children in the long run?
Or, will trying to insistently prove that you should be the one making all the decisions relating to the children have an overall positive result in your post-separation life and post-separation bank account?
The point is, stop. Think about the big picture and not the narrow one that is likely influenced by insecurity, toxic advice from family members, or a desire to stay in control. (Coincidentally, these are the reasons you probably got in trouble in the first place. But I digress.)
Finally, number three: the glimpse into the future.
If your relationship is unsalvageable and you’ve tried to make it work to no avail, then you’ll need to move on.
If your ex-spouse is irrational and unreasonable and making your legal life a nightmare, then you will have to lawyer up and be strong for the sake of your children or for your financial security.
However, the problem is, the post-COVID-19 lines at the court will be longer than your new hairdo that you probably think looks cool. (It doesn’t. Trim that Chewbacca.)
Instead, mediation and arbitration may be the wave of the future. Dealing with cases outside the court system may be the best way out of our upcoming family law mess. At least temporarily until the courts update certain archaic parts of the system that have been overdue for an overhaul for about 30 years. (But I’m sure the billions in new government debt paying for lost wages won’t impact their ability to infuse more money into the court systems.)
Instead, a properly designed mediation office environment with social distancing rules and safety protocols will probably be the new norm and satisfy the requirements to keep that curve flattened. (Whatever that means anymore.)
Also, using a mediator will likely reduce the stress that litigants will face going to court and arguing with the clerks and the court staff about how the delays are too long and how life is just not fair. (It won’t be fair. It won’t be fair for a while.)
But hopefully, we will benefit from new post-COVID-19 insights on the meaning of life and what is really important for all of us to fight for.
The first generation post-COVID-19 divorced couples have an opportunity. An opportunity to set a prime example of how to separate with a bit more compassion, respect, thoughtfulness and inevitably with two more inches along the waistline from all those cupcakes we will have eaten during isolation.
God help us all.
Guest Post By:
Frenkel Family Law