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Are Divorce Rates and Custody Issues Linked to COVID-19?

One of the most significant issues connected to the coronavirus pandemic has been the unintended and ancillary side effects of the virus on our population. I mean by this that there are issues that have come up in our world since the beginning of this pandemic that have nothing to do directly with the virus itself. When we talked about the coronavirus pandemic, I mean that there are important issues in our world but have little to do directly with people getting sick and passing away from the coronavirus. When we talk about issues like this, I am not attempting to diminish the importance of the impact of the virus in terms of sickness and death whatsoever.

However, we are fortunate that doctors and hospitals are now better capable of treating the virus, and we are better able to prevent the spread of the virus in certain capacities among the most vulnerable people. Couple that with possible changes in the makeup of the virus, and we will hopefully be seeing a decrease in deaths and impact of the virus itself in 2021. Obviously, the concern of government officials and health experts is about keeping people healthy and preventing any excess illness. Any parent or person who has a loved one who is elderly would tell you the same thing period their concern is rightful with making sure people stay healthy.

With that said, there are undeniable truths out there that the virus, our government's response to it, and humanity's response to it, in general, have led to other consequences that are bad on a long-term basis as well. These are developments and changes that may be temporary but may also be longer-lasting. The trouble with making predictions about anything with this pandemic is that we are only nine months into it. Anyone's guess is how long it will last, but I think it is reasonable to say that time will tell just how impactful this virus will be on many areas of our lives.

One of those areas of our life that the virus has negatively impacted is our ability to maintain relationships. Human beings, if you have not noticed, are social creatures. That means that no matter how much we may value our alone time, we undoubtedly rely upon relationships to thrive in this world. That means that when we are told we cannot interact with others or only interact on a limited and regulated basis, our ability to act like humans is compromised. With that said, one of the important considerations we now need to make is to what extent we are willing to limit contact with one another to slow down the spread of this virus.

Just stop and think about when the last time you went out for a meal with friends or stopped by to see a family member out of the blue was? While some of us may be more willing to make efforts like these, others may be less inclined to do so out of concern for getting themselves sick or getting someone else sick. While it is believed that doing so will limit the spread of the virus, there are concerns with how our relationships are being harmed in significant ways due to the measures promoting social distancing. With more time, we will be able to look back and determine our relationships and mental health.

For now, all we can really do is take a look at the short-term impacts and give opinions on their beneficial tendencies or tendencies to harm. I don't think anyone reading this blog post would believe that completely shutting ourselves off from others over very long stretches of time is practical. Not only would I imagine that we would reach a point of diminishing return regarding slowing the spread of the virus, but I also think that there would be problems associated with long-term mental health issues in our population.

At this point, you may be asking yourself what any of this has to do with family law in Texas. The tricky part about family law is that it combines just about every area of a person's life into one case. Areas regarding relationships, finances, children, and just about every other area of your life are thrown together and made a part of 1 big situation that requires legal intervention. Sometimes that situation is straightforward and can be resolved fairly quickly. In other cases, the situation is murkier and requires greater time and effort to solve the problems.

No matter if you are facing a divorce case or a child custody case, the question may have crossed your mind as to whether or not the coronavirus pandemic has made the issues of your life regarding custody or divorce more apparent and therefore more likely define their way to the inside of a courtroom. Only you and your family know the circumstances on a detailed level regarding your custody or divorce case. Obviously, I would only be able to offer my general thoughts based on my own experiences and time, having represented many people in child custody and divorce matters. However, I think that we have a good deal of information on the pandemic and its impact on our families for me to be able to offer my thoughts in a way that could be beneficial to you and your household.

What is going on with the divorce rate in the United States and Texas?

Very quickly after the beginning of this pandemic, we saw a lot of speculation that the pandemics rise would also mirror arise in the divorce rate across Texas, the United States, and the world. Our attorneys wondered whether or not this would actually turn out to be the case. While it is true that certain times of the year typically do see increases in the rate of divorce is being filed, there was no indication that the same would be true with this pandemic. Now that we are nine months into the pandemic, I believe we can better offer thoughts on this subject.

Overall, it does seem that more divorces happen filed in 2020 than in a normal year. This is obviously based upon my own anecdotal experiences and perceptions of divorce behaviors over the years. If you are curious, you can check the Internet and probably find many news articles about the rate of divorce in the United States and around the world and whether or not the coronavirus has impacted that rate one way or another. To be sure, the pandemic has certainly set up couples in damaged marriages to go through difficult times this year.

If your marriage has struggled with communication, mistrust, infidelity, stress, money problems, and family problems, then it is certainly to be expected that some of these problems reared their ugly heads during this pandemic. If the stress in your marriage was causing you all harm, then a global pandemic probably did nothing to reduce the level of stress in your household. Stressed out people typically are not great at sharing their feelings on a constructive basis. Therefore communication issues in your marriage probably did not improve this year unless you all made a concerted effort for them to do so.

What about your work? Did you or your spouse lose your job at some point this year, or have your hours been reduced? This would not be beyond the realm of possibilities, especially considering that we live in Southeast Texas, where the oil and gas industry supports many jobs. Not only jobs directly connected to oil and gas, but jobs connected to that field where employment hinges on being able to shelter, clothed, feed, and do so much more in connection with the oil and gas industry itself. You may know nothing about oil and gas and have seen your work life take a hit in 2020 due to a downturn in that field.

Unemployed people tend to be desperate for a good reason. Desperation means that you will do whatever it takes to provide for your family and ensure that your 4 walls are taken care of. When people are in survival, though, they're typically not in a good position to walk with their spouses through problems in their marriage period; those marital problems take a backseat to mere survival. Marriages are hard enough to improve, but when you throw in the difficulties associated with the pandemic, it becomes much more difficult to see your way through them without help.

Finally, it is ironic that we have spent more time at home in a year than in any other prior year; I'm seeing people coming forward to say that they are having problems communicating with their spouses. At first, this may strike us as surprising. If you are spending more time at home with your spouses, it would seem that you all would fall into good conversation and meaningful discussion about things both good and bad in your lives. I mean, what else are you 2 up to other than talking to one another?

However, consider that people are now working at home, teaching their kids home school, cooking, getting on social media, and a range of other activities that can take away from time that would otherwise go towards communicating with their spouse. If this describes you, you should know that you are not alone in feeling like you have not communicated with your spouse despite both being physically present in the home more frequently. This is one of the surprising ways that I think divorce rates have increased due to the pandemic.

If you want to take a fairly simple and concrete step towards improving the quality of communication in your marriage, you need to be intentional about doing so. Do not rely upon your best efforts or those of your spouse. You both may have the best intentions and focused on improving the quality of conversation and communication in your household. Still, the reality of your circumstances may be that you all lack the skills to do so. What I mean by that is that neither of you may be good communicators, and he will not naturally become good communicators without effort and intentionality in achieving this goal. Sometimes you need help to get there.

An example that I will frequently use with clients is that if you want to learn how to become a good golfer, the best thing for you to do would not be Sue spend hours at the driving range with a set of golf clubs hitting an endless amount of balls. First of all, your body will not allow you to do it because doing that activity can be quite strenuous, believe it or not. For all the hours you put into hitting golf balls at the range, your body will reward you with pain and discomfort that may actually hinder your ability to play the sport in the future.

By the same token, hitting a golf ball is very difficult, as anyone who plays the sport will tell you. As a result, it is best to have an expert help you learn proper swing mechanics and situational tips for when you actually play a round of golf. In other words, you need to hire someone to help you learn how to swim Golf Club so that all your effort in time put forth towards this game will be beneficial. Spending hours and hours on something and then not getting any better will be frustrating.

Hopefully, you can see the comparison that I am making regarding working on communication and problems in your marriage and seeking out experienced counselors or therapists to guide you through this process. There is no doubt that you need to be focused on achieving goals in your marriage to have a successful relationship. However, you also need to know your limitations and understand that getting advice from someone there before does mean you are conceding defeat. Rather, by seeking advice from experts in the field, you are taking the largest step possible towards avoiding defeat in the form of a divorce.

Child custody issues during the pandemic

many of the problems that I have already described with divorce rates also apply to child custody circumstances. The major difference is that you are not communicating with your spouse in a child custody circumstance but rather with a co-parent. This may be a co-parent that you had a divorce from in years past or be a parent that you had never been married to in the first place. Either way, developing good communication skills with a co-parent is essential to making that relationship work as good communication skills with marriage.

During the pandemic, the most significant issue that parents have is keeping their children safe. Fortunately, we have not seen much evidence for children becoming ill at school with the pandemic. The other side of that issue is that we have not seen children bringing the virus home to their families from school. While surely there is evidence of this trend occurring on a limited basis, there is no evidence for this being a widespread type of trend.

The challenge for you in your parent right now would be for both of you to get on the same page regarding your willingness and ability to tolerate your child's exposure to other people. I have become aware of multiple families where one parent feels one way about taking their child into public and the other parent feels another. If you and your co-parent have different views on your willingness to engage your child with other people socially speaking, you need to do what you can to get on the same page and feel comfortable with the other parent when they have your child. While you cannot control your child's activities at all times, you can speak respectfully to your co-parent about the circumstances in about your concerns.

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. We thank you for your interest in our firm and hope that we will have the opportunity in the future to serve you and your family.

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