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Navigating Domestic Relations Disputes During the Coronavirus Pandemic

One of the trickiest parts of marriage is learning how to manage disputes with your spouse. For the most part, these disputes are relatively minor in nature and tend to gravitate around subjects that are not overly complex and are ones that are temporary in nature. For example, you might have a different opinion than your spouse on how to save for a house, deal with the problem your child is having in school or handle a particular circumstance in your family that has come up recently. These are disputes and problems that will be shorted out by the two of you or the Clock will simply run out on and you will not have to think much about these problems in the future. 

Disputes are sometimes settled by the agreement of spouses, but they are sometimes also put to bed when this subject matter changes. For example, you and your spouse may have had a disagreement about a particular subject but then something else came up and you lost track of the argument and moved on to something else. The following day or the following week you may not have even been able to remember what it was you were arguing about in the 1st place. We see this happen in the home when we also see this happening in the workplace. Sometimes all it takes is a little distraction to be able to move us along from one subject to the next. 

If you haven't noticed, not much has been moving along quickly in the past few months. Time has seemed to standstill since the beginning of the pandemic given how we are spending more time at home in find ourselves with fewer things to do than we had just a few months previous. While this may not be as true today as it was a few months ago I'm sure many of you are like me and sometimes think that the days are running together more than ever before. Distinguishing between a Monday and a Thursday isn't as easy when all the days feel the same. 

This is due to the various stay at home orders that have been in place and more recently stay at home recommendations issued by state and local governments. As much as it may have been a pain to leave the house every morning, go to work and go about your normal routine there was a certain pattern that our bodies in our minds had become accustomed to. These patterns helped us to differentiate our days in our habits in a way that allowed us to live happy and productive lives. That's not to say that you can't be happy or productive during a pandemic, but it does get a little trickier when so much of our routine has been thrown off for this period of time. 

If you have been spending more time at home, it is likely true that your spouse is in the same boat. Having more time at home may have seemed like a blessing at the beginning of this pandemic but is likely now wearing thin for many of you. Even a person who considers him or herself to be a homebody probably isn't overly excited at being able to spend the vast majority of their week at home. Remember going to the movies? What about going to a sporting event or a restaurant without having to be constantly reminded about social distancing and the other precautions that have to be in place right now? Hopefully these type of safety measures will no longer be necessary in 2021 but for now they are as much a part of our lives as anything else. 

Many times this disagreements that spouses have with one another during this time period may not be able to be solved in a short amount of time. Likewise, the distractions that may pull you away from these issues are minimal right now. The holiday season is upon us and there are even more stressors in most of our lives due to the normal seasonal factors that come into play in regard to Thanksgiving and Christmas. It would be normal to feel a little stressed out right now in a normal year. But, as all of us know, this is anything but a normal year. 

Being able to get along with your spouse is always important but it is even more so important right now compared to most years. It would be easy for a simple disagreement to get out of hand and to lead to significant arguing or even violence of some sort. That doesn't mean that you and your spouse need to get a divorce or have some underlying emotional issues between one another, but it does mean that this pandemic has put most of us in a worse place from a mental health perspective. This means that you need to be vigilant about how you relate to your spouse and how you solve problems together. 

In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan I would like to share with you some thoughts on how to navigate domestic relations disputes during this coronavirus pandemic. I will do my best to keep my attorney hat on and not try to slide on a marriage or family therapist hat. While I am married and do have three kids of my own, I cannot comment on your scenario or compare it to my own marriage scenarios because I do not know you personally. However, I have encountered a number of different scenarios and circumstances through representing people in family law cases that I believe can help me guide you on how to avoid significant disputes right now. 

Improve your communication skills during this pandemic 

there is an old saying that goes something along the lines of: the best time to have planted a tree was 20 years ago and the second-best time to plant a tree is right now. This basically means that if you need food, shelter or just a shady place to relax the best time to have prepared for that need would have been years ago in terms of planting the tree. That tree could have grown and matured, and you would have had the word, shade or fruit from the tree to eat when the need arose years later. However, since we can't go back in time, the next best time to plant that tree would be right now. Don't wait on something simply because you are frustrated or feel like the moment has escaped in order to improve your life.

The same rule applies to learning and developing good communication skills. Nobody comes out of the womb as a good communicator. This is obvious since none of us come out of the womb knowing how to talk as newborns. We have to learn how to talk, and more importantly, learn how to listen overtime and with practice. Some of us learn the skills of communication at an early age and then develop them further as we become adults. Others of us struggled with learning these skills and therefore have more problems as we get older in developing relationships due to our inability or unwillingness to communicate well. 

Just because you have gotten married does that mean that you will magically become a better communicator. In fact, I could make an argument that marriage may actually make you a worse communicator because of the heightened emotions surrounding various subjects. While you certainly have ample opportunity to improve upon your communication skills during this pandemic that does not mean that you necessarily will be able to do so. Like anything else in life, you need to have a plan and be intentional about acting that plan out in order to improve in any area of your life. Communication is no different and therefore you have to be able to become focused on this issue in order to improve on it. 

The other difficulty when it comes to communication is that it is a two-way street. Just because you would like to work on improving your communication skills does not mean that your spouse is on board with that idea. This is a critical step in the process because it does not matter if you are the only person who wants to improve your marriage through better communication. If your spouse is not on board then your marriage well that improve in this area and you are likely to be going through additional periods of hostility with him or her. If this is happening in your marriage, then you have a couple of different options to choose from. 

The first option would be to sit down with your spouse with no distractions and honestly talk to him or her about your thoughts and problems regarding the marriage. When I say no distractions, I mean that the kids should be at school or in bed, the television should be turned off in your phone should be put away. If you all cannot put your phones away and cannot minimize distractions in order to have a very important conversation, then that should speak to the problems apparent in your relationship. It is absolutely critical that you pay close attention to one another in honor of the other persons thoughts about this subject

Once you sit down with your spouse to have this discussion you should make it as clear as possible about what you want to see happen regarding the communication in your marriage. The irony is not lost on me that I'm asking you to communicate about how you believe your communication skills need to improve as a couple. However, even if you all are struggling with your communication skills that doesn't mean that you can't be clear with some effort. Make sure that you set your expectations with your spouse and make him or her aware of the steaks as you see them. If this issue is a 10 out of 10 in importance, then you should make that abundantly clear to your spouse. 

The problem with communication is that sometimes a spouse will point out that Something is a problem in the relationship, but the other spouse will not understand how important of a problem it is to him or her. From my experience, many times it will be the husband who does not understand how important something is to their wife and he will therefore not take it as seriously as his wife would like him to. If this sounds like something that you may be guilty of then you should take extra precaution to pay close attention to your wife where she to discuss something like this with you. By the same token, if you are a wife who has concerns about communication in your marriage then you need to be so clear with your husband about these problems has to leave no room for doubt how important the issue is. 

If you are not able to communicate directly with your spouse about this subject, then you need to move on to different options. The most straightforward option would be to use a licensed family therapist or marriage counselor to help you and your spouse sort through whatever issues you have in regard to your marriage and communication. I would recommend that each of you share your thoughts on this subject with one another before seeking counseling. I do not have enough experience with this subject to tell you much about how effective counseling can be when only one spouse is partaking in the process. However, it would be best if both you and your spouse attended counseling or therapy in order to ensure that your marriage is able to overcome any bumps in the road as far as communication and your relationship is concerned. 

A lot of people hold views regarding counseling and therapy that are simply not true. The idea that only people who have giving up on our marriage attend counseling is not true. There are many people who have successful marriages among us who regularly attend marriage in family therapy sessions. These sessions can be extremely helpful to people who our able to take an honest inventory of their lives and determine that they need help in regard to different areas where they may struggle or may need improvement. All it takes is being honest with yourself and having the courage to discuss these issues with your spouse. 

How to go about planning for your divorce during the quarantine 

It may be, that despite attempts to reconcile your relationship and work on issues like communication that the nature of your relationship gets worse during this pandemic enough for you to consider getting a divorce. This should not be something for you to ignore or simply try to put off until the pandemic is over. As you would have seen in many different blog posts that we have had posted to our website since the beginning of this pandemic the coronavirus pandemic is no excuse it is not a good reason to delay a divorce that may be necessary for you and your family. 

Again, what is necessary for you may not be necessary for me and vice versa. I do think it is fair to say that if your domestic relations have eroded to the point where there is risk of violence or abuse in the home then you absolutely need to take steps to protect yourself and your family. Filing for divorce can begin to involve the protections offered to you through the judicial system such as the implementation of protective and temporary orders that can keep you safe while you attempt to navigate the divorce process. In addition, you should begin to develop a strategy and plan for you to leave your family home if that becomes necessary. 

Overall, whatever state you are in in terms of your marriage allowed you to make plans for the future. No matter if those plans involve a reconciliation attempt or involve planning for divorce there are many resources available to you to help you learn more about whatever stage of life you are in. Beginning that process by speaking with knowledgeable family law attorneys who can help guide you through the process is a great place for you to be in. Why not take some advice from persons that have been there before so that you may be able to build a better future for yourself and your family? 

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. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about the services that our law office provides to our clients. 

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