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Family Law

Family Stresses from Coronavirus

These “Corona” times are stressful for everyone. The spread of the virus resulted in repercussions that have affected every single one of us, whether it’s through remote work, unemployment, school closures, childcare, sickness, and/or loss.

With our physical health and livelihoods at risk, maintaining one’s mental health has been a low priority. Unfortunately, failing to prioritize our mental health only exacerbates the stressful situation as anxiety, fear, and stress slowly consume our everyday.

Remaining in close corridors creates additional stress. After weeks of quarantine, many families are starting to experience their tipping points and are finding this heightened stress has been causing additional issues in their household.

Below are some of the most common family stresses you may be experiencing and some recommended steps you can take to help alleviate them.

Household Arguments

While it is healthy for married couples to argue, it is much easier to get through an argument when one can take some time to cool off or visit and talk with a friend. When you’re confined in the same household as your spouse, however, small arguments can easily escalate. And while some of these escalations might be blown out of proportion because of heightened stress, others are indications of underlying marital struggles that couples are now forced to face.

In China, we saw a surge in divorce filings after they emerged from lockdown. For family law lawyers, this isn’t surprising. Shelter in place forces couples to spend more time together than they might be used to and external stressors accelerate issues that were present before the quarantine. Additionally, when one is already stressed, things that don’t usually bother us tend to set us off. Whether it’s feeling like household chores aren’t split evenly or feeling stressed about paying bills, confronting issues every day starts to feel overwhelming and will cause many to decide they no longer want to deal with it.

What may or may not be a fortunate thing is that most courts have shut down. Those that are still open are limited to emergency requests, such as restraining orders. Thus, couples who are looking to get divorced are forced to wait until courts reopen to file their petition. This may be the ultimate make-it-or-break-it situation for many spouses as they either learn to work through their issues, or they solidify their decision to dissolve their marriage.

That being said, if you feel as though your marriage is struggling, you are not immobilized because courts are closed. Before making any moves toward filing, however, we encourage you to take steps to protect your marriage.

First, recognize that additional stressors are at play and really analyze what you’re feeling. Are you projecting your stress onto your spouse or are you genuinely upset at the root of the argument? Also, recognize that feelings are not one dimensional. You may be feeling upset but that feeling is exacerbated because of the current situation.

Communicate with one another. Sit down and explain why you’re feeling stressed and what the other person can do to help relieve that. Allow your spouse to do the same. Really listen and make an effort to get through this as a team. Be understanding that you are both experiencing a stressful situation right now and work through it together rather than against each other.

Finally, look into engaging in therapeutic intervention. Many therapists have converted to “telehealth” and can conduct your sessions virtually. By having a professional help with your conflicts, you can set ground rules, find ways to better communicate, and come up with a creative solution to release the tension or stress you may both be feeling.

If you’ve exhausted all options and realize that a divorce is what’s best, talk to a divorce attorney. While courts may be closed right now, Modern Family Law attorneys are working remotely to provide free consultations and to help you through the process.

Parenting Time & Exchanges

If you are a co-parent, you are likely familiar with the anxiety and stress surrounding exchanges and parenting time. Shelter in Place orders has only increased the stress and anxiety of these exchanges. However, since parenting plans are orders of the court, they are considered necessary travel in light of the shelter-in-place provisions and must be complied with.

Exchanges can cause a lot of stress on parents during this time, especially if they are unaware of the occurrences in their co-parent’s household. Parents are voicing concerns about their co-parent going out for non-essential needs, having company over, or being essential workers who are at high risk of exposure. On the other hand, other parents are experiencing a surge in denied visitations and fear their co-parent is taking unfair advantage of the situation.

Communication is the key to successful co-parenting. If you are experiencing additional difficulty with your parenting plan, reach out to your co-parent and address your concerns. Try and come up with a fair resolution together. While it is important to abide by court orders, being flexible, understanding, and compassionate is important in helping your children thrive during this difficult time. If both parents keep their child[ren]’s interest a priority, rather than their own needs and wants, they will be able to find the right solution for their situation.

If you feel as though your concerns are being met with resistance, your situation may warrant an emergency filing for modification with the court. Without a written agreement or modification of the court order, you will be expected to abide by the current parenting plan. Speak to a family law lawyer to determine if this step is feasible and within your child[ren]’s best interest.

And for all parents who may be feeling overwhelmed, this article provides five tips to help you parent through the Coronavirus (

Financial Stress

All workers have experienced a shift in their employment due to COVID19. Many were laid off, placed on furlough, or forced to work remotely. Others became essential workers who are now feeling overworked and in fear of their health every day.

With employment in disarray, trying to manage finances is likely at the top of everyone’s “stress” list. We rely on paychecks to survive. If we can’t pay our bills, our livelihood then becomes compromised. In order to keep our lights on, our water running, and our internet-connected, we have to pay our bills. In order to keep food on the table to feed our families, we need money to buy groceries. Many also have additional financial obligations, such as child support and spousal support that they are still expected to pay. With reduced or no pay, we are all struggling to find a way to maintain our daily lives and financial responsibilities. As expected, this causes unimaginable stress.

Fortunately, many companies have been understanding about the financial difficulties many families are facing these days and have created leniencies. California, in particular, has suspended foreclosure proceedings to 90 days after the shelter-in-place orders have been lifted. You might check with your current court rules. The Employment Development Department is qualifying those whose employment has been affected due to corona for unemployment benefits. The Federal Government has started sending out stimulus checks to all Americans to help reduce some financial stress. Car Insurance companies are offering credits and discounts on monthly payments due to reduced driving. Some student loans have reduced or eliminated interest rates. And some bank accounts are allowing customers delays in paying their credit card statements.

While it’s impossible for any of these to truly eliminate your financial stress, exploring the different avenues and resources available may help alleviate your current situation. Reach out to different companies and research their current policies to find what is best for you. However, note that while it may help take some financial stress off right now, think about any future implications and risks you will be taking. You do not want to cause additional financial stress in the future by delaying payments that will be expected to pay in a lump-sum later.

Further, if you are someone who is experiencing difficulties in paying your court-ordered support, consider reaching out to your co-parent or ex-spouse to work out a temporary agreement in writing. You may be able to pause or delay payments for the time being or work out a discounted amount. Right now, communication and compassion are necessary for all of us to survive this financial hardship.

If you are unemployed and need a more permanent modification of the order, reach out to an attorney and ask about filing a request with the Court. Although many courts are not accepting those types of filings at the moment, they can help prepare the motion for you to have it filed immediately once the courts re-open.

And as an effort to help families in this unprecedented situation, Modern Family Law is offering discounted retainers to help you still get the representation you need for your family law matters.

Health & Safety

With all the other external stressors resulting from corona, the forefront of all this tension is a concern for the health and wellbeing of our family and loved ones. Many of us have loved ones who are high-risk, essential workers or have been directly affected by the virus. The rapid spread of this virus has not only caused businesses to shut down and the economy to slow, but now hospitals all over the country are over capacity, under-staffed, and low on resources.

While shelter-in-place orders are in place as an attempt to subdue the exposure and risk, it has caused an unsettling rippling effect on all families as they are unable to care for their elderly or the sick. Even the slightest cough or sore throat causes great distress, and since many places are limited on tests, facilities are not allowing many people to get tested. Getting sick at this time creates a further snowball effect as it then affects work hours that many people cannot afford to lose right now.

On top of it all, many people have had the heartbreak of being limited to “virtual visits” to comfort their sick loved ones since hospitals are not allowing visitors. Pregnant mothers are forced to give birth alone. Stories of people dying alone are spreading like wildfire around the internet. Mortuaries are overcapacity and funeral homes are not allowing services.

Thus, this virus not only has external stressors but has triggered emotional stressors as well. Unfortunately, until the spread of the virus slows down and a vaccine is created, there is no better solution outside of isolation. Despite the tragedies, heartbreaks, difficulties, and stress we are all experiencing, there is still a sense of unity amongst the community to push through together and be there for each other in the ways we can.

It is important for everyone to contribute and play their part in flattening the curve by following the proper hygienic protocols and abiding by the shelter in place. This will not only keep you and your family safe but will keep everyone else safe as well.

Though all the stress that we are experiencing because of this pandemic, one positive outcome is seeing how individuals and companies alike have worked together to help overcome these struggles. If we continue to realize how our behavior and actions have an effect on others, and we continue to act in our community’s best interest, we can hopefully come out stronger and with a new world perspective and appreciation for one another.

Until then, stay safe.

Posted April 21, 2020

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