Whether you have already started divorce proceedings or were thinking about it and are now forced into lockdown together, what can you do to avoid conflict?
It can be extremely difficult to live in the same house as your spouse when you want to separate or divorce or are in the process of divorcing, and this will only be further exacerbated now that the Prime Minister has ordered a full scale lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The implications of this for families across the country is that they will be forced to live on top of one other in shared accommodation for weeks or potentially months to come. The situation will no doubt be worse for you if you are not happy in your relationship or marriage.
You may be in the middle of divorce and wondering whether the coronavirus situation will mean the process will take longer, or you may have been poised to start the divorce process but are now pushing the pause button and deciding to “put up” with the situation and carrying on as normal, as best you can, until you feel safe enough to re-start the process.
One client told us
‘I do not feel I can proceed with my divorce now. We're going to be living together, potentially for many weeks and I am scared of his reaction. I won't be able to find somewhere else to live and what if he fights me for the children? I feel I have no choice but to hold off on filing the petition and just wait it out
If you are concerned about how you are going to cope living with a partner from whom you want to separate, it is important that you remain calm and positive. Based on our experience as family solicitors and advising cohabiting partners and spouses before and during the separation or divorce process we recommend that you do the following to ensure you are able to manage this experience with minimal disruption to both parties and any children:
Sleep in separate bedrooms
This may appear obvious, but if it is possible, it is a very important step in gaining independence.
Respect common areas
It is important to respect each other’s use of shared spaces such as the kitchen, bathroom and any other room you share. The next few weeks/months are going to be tough, even for people not wanting to divorce or separate, so try and make your situation a little less distressing by being respectful of each other’s use of the home. You should also ensure that common areas are kept tidy and leave any other room you share as you would wish to find them to try and avoid any petty arguments brought on by “cabin-fever”.
Set a schedule
If it is difficult to use the same rooms at the same time, think about agreeing a schedule in which you can enjoy the shared spaces alone. This will also help with social distancing.
Respect each other’s privacy
We are all entitled to privacy and respecting it is key to living together harmoniously, even in these unprecedented times. This includes staying out of each other’s bedroom and not touching each another’s personal possessions without permission.
Try and co-parent with minimal animosity.
With the children now being home from school they will need entertaining and this will likely test any parent, especially when trying to work from home. If you are in the process of separating from the other parent our best advice is to try and put all animosity aside and try and get along and co-parent without falling out. The situation will be scary enough for the children without them also having to listen to fighting parents, especially fighting over who is to care for them. Now really is the time to put your differences aside and try and make the best of a bad situation.
If this is simply not possible, try and agree a routine where you take it in turns to work and care for the children and stick to it. That way the children will know what they are doing and will soon get used to this new routine post school closure.
This, of course, is serious, regardless of the coronavirus situation. With self-isolation and with the increasing pressures of living in close quarters for what may be a long period of time, you may be very worried about what will happen if your partner abuses you. Our clear advice is to call the police. There will still be help available even during a lockdown.
The family courts are also still sitting, although remotely, and if you fear living with an abusive partner, please contact us so that we can advise whether to make an occupation order application.
If you want to access support over the phone, you can call:
- National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
- The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
- The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
- National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
- Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123
- Rights of Women advice lines, there are a range of services available: click here
- Also consider Women's Aid
We will shortly be posting a follow up article on how you can amicably share contact with your children during this difficult time.
Confused about divorce? We are here to help
Whether it is providing you with practical advice during this difficult time, or advising you for the duration of your divorce, at A City Law Firm, our Family Team are all here to help. We have an experienced team of family lawyers that would be happy to arrange an initial consultation to advise you. Please get in touch by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.