By: Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC
Although most of the States have set orders, guidelines or recommendations on where we may go, how far apart we should stand whether our place of business is open or closed, where and how we can travel—there are no set rules for how to handle ourselves in this pandemic. But in the context of family law, and the reality of where you might find yourself, please consider:
You may have started divorce proceedings, or told your spouse/partner, that you wish a divorce, but you may be still residing in the same house. Many divorcing couples are compelled to do this for financial reasons. Given New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s recent Executive Order, there are not many places one may go to in order to “escape” from home or from one’s spouse/partner.
Be mindful that your housemate may not wish to be quarantined with you any more than you wish to be quarantined with her/him.
Even if you solely own the house, now is not the time to remind anyone of that. Now is the time to discuss how to function civilly, smartly and safely. Share resources. Money may be tight, and so are available food products. Plan together. Chances are one of you is more resourceful than the other at cooking, stretching supplies, improvising, sanitizing; one may be more adept at technology. Discuss it all, without rancor, without judgment. This crisis will pass; you will be back on track for your divorce. Perhaps the spirit of cooperation you engender now will carry over to your divorce negotiations.
But if you are in any way being physically abused by your housemate, do what you should do when there is no pandemic: call the police. Your safety comes first.
If you are in the process of a divorce or are divorced and you and your co-parent reside in different households, do not deny your children SAFE access to their other parent—Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, telephone calls as frequently as desired. Social distance walking, bike riding, skateboarding, whatever your children are into. Try to imagine what it would be like if you were quarantined away from your children.
Now might be the time to share with your children who undoubtedly, like it or not, miss their other parent, some of the good times you all had together. Look at old photos, past videos. If you have the technological capabilities, scan and send the children’s photos, drawings, letters, etc. to your co-parent. When it comes to your children, whether you reside with your co-parent or not, you are in this together; making it less painful to your co-parent will make it easier for your children as well.
All you do during this pandemic will be remembered by your children, your co-parent, your former spouse/partner— and by yourself.