Steps that separating couples should take to help them through lockdown
6 May 2020
In this article Graham Coy, from our family team, and Ashley Palmer, Child Inclusive Family mediator at A. Palmer & Associates, look at what steps should be taken by separating couples who have been forced to live under the same roof during the coronavirus outbreak.
Use daily exercise to speak to a professional, alone and in confidence
Government orders to stay at home could make it difficult to find the time and space to have confidential conversations about your separation. If you are going through a difficult period, take time, perhaps during your daily exercise, to speak with a therapist or mediator in confidence – whether this is to simply talk about how you are feeling or discuss the next steps of the separation process.
Joint counselling sessions should be conducted from separate rooms
In addition to speaking with professionals, separately as individuals, both parties should schedule regular joint video or telephone sessions with counsellors or mediators. Where possible, these could be conducted in different rooms to encourage both participants to speak as openly and freely as possible without feeling constrained by the physical proximity of the other.
Financial discussions should be conducted via a lawyer or mediator – rather than doing it directly
As well as sorting future arrangements for children, finances are often the most contentious aspect of a divorce or separation. Discussions about the division of assets and maintenance should be conducted via a third party, such as a lawyer or mediator. This will stop arguments flaring and entrenched positions being taken. Lawyers will be able to give expert advice on what the likely outcome will be. Otherwise a lot of time, money and effort may go to waste.
Don’t try to use the divorce as a way to punish each other
Both parties should resist the temptation to let their emotions take over and try to use the divorce or the children as a way to punish the other party. Dragging the situation out unnecessarily will drive up legal costs and ultimately won’t lead to emotional satisfaction. In financial cases, mediators will encourage each party to view the situation as purely a financial transaction, helping them to take as objective a view as possible. Where children are involved, mediators will ensure outcomes are child focused.
Work together to balance childcare and professional responsibilities
It is likely that either or both parents will have to balance their jobs and childcare. The best way to do this is by working together as a team. Work out a timetable that will best serve the interests of all parties. If the relationship is still amicable enough, one partner may wish to take on responsibility for sorting out the logistics of the separation, whilst the other looks after the children. Make sure that you communicate regularly to avoid resentment building up. If communication seems impossible, you can use the help of an online mediator.
Children will be more exposed to tension between parents
Separating couples need to be mindful of the fact that children will be more exposed than normal to any tensions or changes within the family dynamic during this period of “lockdown”. Parents should take care with how they interact with one another in front of children. They should also be careful not to do or say anything that is likely to cause additional worry or distress.
Graham Coy says: “Couples whose relationship has broken down will be under enormous pressure at this challenging time.”
“However, despite the significant challenges presented by coronavirus, couples can work together to resolve their issues in a civilised manner.”
Ashley Palmer says: “It’s completely understandable that tensions will be heightened, if there are children involved, it’s crucial that parents find a way to build a robust co-parenting alliance. There are professionals out there that can help parents to lower the adult conflict and find ways to move through these exceptionally demanding times.”
If you are experiencing any issues related to the above, please get in touch using the below form for an initial, informal chat. Graham is also happy to have a chat by Zoom or video-conference if you would feel more comfortable discussing 'face-to-face'. Just let us know below.