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Litigation. Collaborative Law. Mediation.

Families, Feelings, and Phone Calls: Divorce in the Age of Coronavirus


The last seven months have been trying, for many reasons. In the earliest days of the pandemic, when New York all but shut down entirely, the fear and confusion created almost palpable tensions. People hunkered down together, feeling the weight of uncertainty on their shoulders.

Within weeks, the “coronavirus divorce” speculations began: would there be a spike in divorce filings? Did the isolation brought on by the virus make us more aware of our life triumphs and our regrets? Did we use our time in quarantine to self-reflect and maybe change our lives, even a little? Would our children be safe? Would our relationships withstand lockdowns, no dinners out, and no school or work? Should we stay in NYC or should we move?

Many New Yorkers are still asking those questions, though the answers may be more forthcoming. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, writer Kim Brooks spoke longingly of the days where communities were families, and sprawling tribes were how we socialized and lived. Reading it, one might believe that a literal interpretation of “it takes a village” is the ideal. In her eyes, perhaps the typical marriage-and-two-kids model was the failure – not the families themselves.

Ms. Brooks admitted that her ideas may not be shared by all. She admits “To suggest, then, that marriage is not working for many Americans, particularly those trying to raise children, is to undermine the foundation on which many people have built their lives.”

Then she goes on to say this:

As married couples spend months trapped in homes with partners and children, the cherished institution of the nuclear family begins to look increasingly unworkable and obsolete, while marriage begins to feel more and more like a two-legged stool.

To be fair, people have been predicting the decline of marriage for over a century. It is an institution that always seems to be in crisis, never quite able to keep up with the shifting demands of a modern life…. The pandemic did not create the contradictions; it just turned a chronic problem into a crisis, shedding light on what so many of us have tried to ignore…. With a swipe of a judge’s pen, our family will be restructured.

To “restructure” is to “to change the makeup, organization, or pattern of” something. In the case of divorce, the restructuring occurs to the family unit.

Perhaps this is a better way of thinking about divorce. Instead of seeing it as an end to a family, it is the reorganization of one. Parents don’t have to cohabitate to remain parents, and children don’t have to have two parents in one house or one apartment to make it a home with their family.

Making the restructured family unit work for you and your children

Spouses who wish to avoid litigation in New York City have a few options: they can go through mediation, which helps them find fair and realistic solutions to their concerns and problem that work for them without involving a Judge or the court. They can utilize the collaborative law process, in which both spouses work together amicably in a team approach utilizing neutral third party professionals a may be necessary (i.e. financial professional or child psychologist) to move the divorce process along. Alternately, spouses can hire lawyers to negotiate a formal agreement resolving all the issues of their marriage. In each of these processes, the spouses work together to create parenting plans that put their children’s needs and best interests first, which still taking their own needs and circumstances into account regarding child custody.

In other words, if parents truly cooperate through their divorce, then they really can “restructure” their family unit as opposed to “ending” it.

At Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP, our matrimonial law attorneys provide custom solutions designed with you and your children in mind. We represent clients throughout New York City, Westchester, and Bergen County, NJ. To learn more about our services or schedule a consultation, please call (212) 466-6015 or fill out our contact form.