Social distancing rules put in place to stem the rise of COVID-19 have caused upheaval and a pause on life as we know it. Such rules are particularly tough when you are in the midst of a life transition like divorce. Already in a tense situation, you may now be helping to educate your children at home, while dealing with unemployment, a precarious work situation, the stress of being an essential worker, or health concerns — all the while being cooped up with someone you’d prefer to distance yourself from.
It’s a lot. Enough for the calmest among us to get angry or feel despair.
While it may feel like life is on hold forever, it is not. Here are five things you can do to move your divorce forward and keep the peace until more normalcy returns.
1. Gather paperwork.
Use this time at home to gather the documents you will need for your divorce. Collecting these items will help you feel prepared for divorce mediation and be up to date with your current financial state. The documents may include:
- paycheck stubs or other proof of income from the past year,
- tax documents from the past three years,
- life insurance,
- documentation of unsecured debts like credit cards,
- pension/IRA/401k statements,
- automobile and other vehicle titles and registrations,
- mortgage paperwork,
- and any relevant documentation if you own a business.
2. Write down the individual goals and concerns you have for when you can do mediation.
Spend time logging your goals for your divorce mediation agreement. How do you hope to split custody or assets? Will you need to receive or pay alimony or child support? Prioritize these goals and concerns to help you focus on what is most important for you during divorce negotiations.
3. Keep things normal and structured for your children.
Being unable to attend school is extremely tough on children. They miss their friends, teachers, and even the structure (though they may not realize or admit it). Perhaps you’ve also had to socially distance away from grandparents and other extended family members. During this difficult time, work with your spouse to keep things as normal as possible. Do not argue in front of the kids and continue to live as a family. Be reassuring and answer questions they may have, both about COVID-19 and your separation. Even after the divorce, you and your ex will need to be civil to one another to co-parent your children. While not ideal, our current times may help how you learn how that process will work. If it is difficult to keep things “normal,” consider family or individual counseling, which can be done via videoconferencing.
4. Give each other space, as much as possible.
One of the biggest luxuries right now is time alone. Figure out how you and your spouse can give each other space. It may be as simple as taking walks separately, spending time in different rooms, or alternating who goes to the grocery store.
5. Begin the process with a consultation through videoconferencing, phone conferencing, or in-person consultation (with face coverings and appropriate social distancing measures).
Many businesses are moving to online consultations and visits, and divorce mediators are no different. Begin the process by scheduling a consultation to find the right mediator for your divorce.
Continue preparing for divorce with this checklist.
And contact South Bay Mediation to set up a video call or other arrangement to learn more about the divorce mediation process.