Will there be a spike in divorce rates as a result of the pandemic?
In an unexpected turn of life, we find ourselves in living situations we could never have anticipated. Quarantines, isolation, and social distancing, are creating a challenge for many families. For some, connections have grown deeper, while others find they are experiencing conflict and struggles in their relationships. Dianne McKim, personal coach, with special guest mediator, Mark Paige discuss their experience as professionals and taking next steps in relationship.
Dianne is a Local Leadership and Personal coach and Divorce Support Group Specialist.
Mark is a Hudson Valley Divorce Attorney and Mediator.
Together we are here to help make sense of challenging relationships, separation, and divorce during these difficult days.
What is the difference between a coach and a mediator?
Dianne: A coach comes alongside and partners with their clients helping them unlock and maximize their full potential. Through thought-provoking and creative processes the client is inspired, achieves long-term growth and moves forward from their current situation to their desired future. In relationships, and divorce in particular, the coach will help the client navigate the difficult emotions and struggles that so often accompany the divorce. The client gains hope and healing through the coaching process.
Mark: A mediator acts as a neutral party. The mediator doesn’t advocate for either party; they are not their attorney during the process. The role of the mediator is to hopefully facilitate a resolution of any issues that need to be addressed for that particular couple. The mediator is not a marriage counselor. If you have a mediator involved, the focus at that point is typically that the marriage is dissolving.
What are the most common concerns expressed by clients during this hardship?
Dianne: So many are struggling with emotional roller coasters. Some days they feel fine, other days they feel depressed, or angry, or sad, or exhausted. Some are having panic attacks. It is so hard to manage life well when our emotions seem to be totally out of control. In addition, many are finding being home all the time with little or no interactions with their usual family, friends, coworkers, etc. is leaving them feeling lonely. For others, trying to be amicable, kind and considerate to each other can be a challenge as well. Stress is definitely on the increase as couples are experiencing being home all the time without a break from the children, who now are in their care 24 hours a day and may need help with their schooling, working from home, if they are still working or figuring out how to pay the bills if they have been let go from their job, not to mention all the food that everyone is eating.
Mark: As couples are “stuck” at home and money being tight, marital issues are compounded and highlighted. Resentments can start to escalate as each party begins to focus on the issues.
What should someone do who finds they are now “trapped” in a domestic violence situation?
Dianne: The first thing I will always say is Get Safe. That may not be simple especially right now during the pandemic, however, there are 24-hour hotlines you can call to get help.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Safe Horizon Hotline: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)
The staff at these hotlines are trained to help you make a plan and find local resources that can help you get safe.
Mark: The courts are operating on an emergency basis. With a domestic violence situation, parties can file with family court a “Family Offense Petition”. With this filing, a conference will be set (most likely virtual), and it could lead to a temporary order of protection where one party must vacate the home.
A call to the local police may be warranted, as well as a filing in Criminal Court. This court can also set up a temporary order of protection mandating one party leave the residence.
Do you anticipate a spike in divorces as a result of this pandemic?
Dianne: There is no strong evidence as of yet that the divorce rate will increase as a result of the pandemic. However, there have been documented increases in divorce filings in China and Britain as a result of the pandemic. Yet, even with that uncertainty, there are some situations that are on the rise due to this dramatic lifestyle shift we have all had to endure.
Mark: Prior to the pandemic, the divorce rate in America had dropped. However, I believe after the pandemic there will be an increase in couples seeking divorce whether it be through litigation, or alternative dispute resolution such as mediation.
What can couples do to overcome the communication challenges and stress they may be experiencing?
Dianne: Communication can so often be a challenge because each of us approach the world from our own point of view. We each need to take responsibility for our own actions and words. Having empathy and compassion for each other is a good start. Remember none of us have been in situations like these before so stress levels and emotions can run high. You may need to ask yourself if the issue at hand is really worth a battle or if it is something you can let go. You may need to find a compromise between what you want and what your spouse wants. If you both approach the situation looking for a way to make it work with the willingness to adjust your wants, in most cases you will find a way to settle on a different but agreeable approach. This is what give and take looks like at its best and it is a strong component of a healthy relationship.
Mark: Communication and transparency are key. Each party should try to have empathy for the other. It is important to listen to each other and let resentment go. Keeping your defenses low and your desire to work things out paramount will really help.
Relationships of all kinds can be challenging at times. Resolve to work at them, open up communication and look for opportunities of give and take which are better approaches to grow together. Asking for help or assistance can provide a path to balance and clarity both in ones self and within the relationship.