The COVID-19 pandemic has placed numerous stressors on individuals and families, particularly those either thinking about, in the midst of, or having finalized a separation or divorce, especially when children are involved. For those parents who are co-parenting children, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted particularly the very valuable and unique benefits of the Collaborative Divorce model.
One of the most important goals of the Collaborative Divorce model is to help the parties co-parent in the best interests of their children. Parents learn to respect each other as individuals and to attain and maintain the ability to communicate effectively with the mutual goal of providing a safe and nurturing environment for their children. Parents who have been helped to do so through the support of the members of the Collaborative Team, whether their respective attorneys, Family Support Specialist or Financial Neutral are in a much better position to weather both routine and more unexpected situations that arise in their daily lives.
The unexpected and sudden current COVID-19 crisis has upended the day to day lives of most families. Children are no longer attending day care or school outside of the home; babysitters are often not available; either or both parents may now be working from their respective homes, or are classified as an essential worker who may be at risk for infection or suddenly have a rotating schedule; either or both parents may have a reduced income or no income due to a layoff related to the economic consequences of the pandemic or the closure of a business. How parents deal with any of these factors can have enormous, potentially lifelong, emotional consequences for the children and also for themselves.
Unfortunately, recent stories are emerging of parents who likely have not been involved in a Collaborative Process who are refusing to allow the other parent to have parenting time with the children due to the pandemic, even when the other parent has isolated at home and has observed all recommended health and safety protocols. It has been our experience that unlike those situations, parents who accomplished their separation or divorce through the Collaborative Process have been able to quickly adjust parenting time and schedules to account for the changes that have recently occurred related to COVID-19. These parents are also able to discuss effectively new issues that have arisen involving how to “be on the same page” about such topics as social distancing rules; social media guidelines for their children; flexible day to day parenting schedules; use of technology for connectivity and support; calming children’s fears; seeking medical or psychological support when needed; adjusting financial support issues and so on to accommodate the crisis. Parents also have the ability to look to their Collaborative team for support during this time, working together to effectively problem solve and not to heighten tensions, but rather to calm them. Virtual sessions can be scheduled to discuss the new issues and any conflicts can be resolved quickly outside of the court system. At a time when the court system is not readily available, the Collaborative Model, which is premised on avoiding the court process, is especially designed to handle all of the important needs that must be met and decisions that need to be made in a quick time frame.
Numerous studies show that how parents who separate or divorce behave toward one another and interact with respect to the children who they love will have an enormous impact on how the children grow and develop. Doing so during the current historic health and economic crisis is even more challenging, which is why the choice of a Collaborative Process for those in need is now, more than ever, one of the most important choices a family can make.
Written by Amy Reinstein-Augenstein, Esq., LCSW