Grit & Soul

Celebrities Lead the Wave of COVID Divorces and Move On – But How Can Everyday Couples Split If They are Cooped Up Together, 24/7?

For some of our favorite Hollywood stars, celebrity status is not enough to combat the ill effects of the COVID-19 lockdown. Bachelor alums Colton Underwood and Cassie Randolph, for example, singer and TV personality Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock, and actor and businesswoman Mary-Kate Olsen and Olivier Sarkozy have called it quits during the pandemic and are moving on.

Why are A-Listers Calling It Quits?

It has been a stressful few months for these stars – as for all of us – due to this health crisis, and the additional pressure is producing a whole new batch of single celebrities. Hollywood couples are trapped together and are spending weeks or months cooped up at home. Many matrimonial attorneys believe that the rate of divorce will spike in the coming months, not only for the Hollywood elite, but also for ordinary folks like you and me.

Average couples feel the stresses of quarantine even more than their more famous counterparts. Money worries, conflicts over the kids, remote learning, fights over chores, increased drinking and eating coupled with a lack of exercise are pushing many couples to envision a better life without their partners.

Couples Can Split, But Are Forced to Live Together

However, moving on during COVID is all but a fantasy, for many. In practical terms, couples without access to significant savings may find it difficult to part ways during lockdown. Setting up a new apartment is not realistic when money is tight, as it is for over 44 million Americans who have lost their jobs or are furloughed due to COVID. Even if the financial resources are available, many individuals are rightfully scared of leaving their houses due to the virus. Not to mention that the current real estate market makes it trickier to view a new property or purchase, or rent, a new home.

Certified Divorce Financial Planner®, Paul Stagias, shares, “moving out of the marital home will significantly increase housing expenses and increase everyday bills. Supporting two households has the potential to cause even more financial strain, which is risky in an uncertain job market and economy. One in five Americans have filed for unemployment, and many families are feeling the financial fallout. Most are left with few options for starting their separate lives.” 

The pandemic is also creating a boomerang effect, bringing back independent, adult children as well their kids. A full house makes a split, now, even less ideal. No one wants to be the “bad parent” and announce a divorce during a lockdown.

For those with younger children, the question of how both parents will see the kids during the pandemic is real and challenging to answer. The courts are overflowing with cases involving mom and dad battling it out over the new social distancing rules and how their custody agreement should adapt to this.

Continuing to live together, however, can be even more painful. Sleeping in different beds may help, but you cannot escape your soon-to-be ex during the day, especially without an office to go to everyday and social commitments to keep you busy.

“Couples divorcing during COVID need to control their difficulties with each other, while co-existing with limited access to the outside world, as per public health guidelines,” says family therapist, Cindy Sichel.

Sichel has a 45-year-old male client, Wes, who consulted with her to help him find strategies to control his reactions when taunted by his wife, Susie, who regularly accuses him of bad parenting. (Names have been changed.)  “I advised him to respond to Susie’s provocations with neutral responses designed to de-escalate the crisis and diminish the stress of having to live together while divorcing. For example, when he felt Susie was attacking him, I told him to not argue with her but instead say, ‘Thanks for letting me know’ or ‘I understand.’” Sichel also suggested he tell Susie that he would like them to jointly make a commitment to being positive, and encouraging constructive behaviors, statements, and attitudes that would create an environment of calm, safety and security for their daughter. She proposed he “download meditation and relaxation apps that would help reset a sense of internal calm, exercise daily to diminish stress, and reminded him to stay in the moment, since we can’t predict how our lives will return to a ‘new normal’ after COVID is brought under control.”

During our two decades of work with divorcing clients, we have found that the individuals who fare best during divorce have the support of a collaborative team of divorce professionals.

Financial divorce expert Stagias explains, “Divorce is not only about money, the children, the house, or the furniture; it’s about how everything comes together in a larger picture. It’s about different aspects of your life working together to move toward the life you want to achieve for you and your loved ones.”

The most effective team to deliver this holistic advice includes a matrimonial attorney, a Certified Divorce Financial Advisor, and a therapist or divorce coach. This power team of allied professions is the key to helping divorcing spouses manage the changes and stress brought on by a separation, which has become even more intensified in the current health and financial crisis.

 

 

Also by Stacy Francis:

Know Your Worth: Protect Your Personal Finances in Divorce

Financial Abuse – The Most Common Type of Abuse That Far Too Many Ignore.

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