How to separate peacefully
Written by: Erin Wilson
Photo by Kelly Sikkema
We are now nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and have experienced the accompanying challenges and bright spots of quarantine, working remotely, and e-learning. As we acclimate to the new normal, you might be experiencing some clarity in your relationships. Some people are realizing their relationship with their significant other may bring unhappiness rather than satisfaction, or strain rather than ease. Are you staying for the sake of your children? Have you tried couple’s therapy but still cannot get along?
If you relate to any of these issues, you may be already considering separation or divorce. This can be incredibly difficult to process, but the struggles we have all experienced over the past year may have alerted you to a desire for change. This realization may be enlightening or potentially distressing, but the next steps do not have to be strenuous or daunting. You can separate peacefully and amicably by taking into consideration the following tips.
Communication and compromise
The best thing you can do now is communicate with your spouse, either directly or through a therapist or your lawyer, in a respectful manner. Compromise and cooperation are key.
Consider mediation, which involves a neutral third party to facilitate the separation or an uncontested divorce process, where either one or both parties can have representation and the divorce will move forward seamlessly so long as there is agreement amongst the parties. Another idea is to begin or continue in therapy for communication or co-parenting counseling. For other couples, separation may become contentious but if you can keep level-headed and communicate your thoughts with your spouse, this can help exponentially. Keep in mind that the common goal is to separate civilly and expeditiously.
Children come first
Remember your common goals of keeping the children happy, safe and healthy are priority; always consider their wants or needs and how to align those with your requests in the separation. You and your co-parent must cooperate and act in your children’s best interests. There are a variety of professionals that can facilitate this process: a Child Representative or Guardian ad Litem may be appointed to represent the children’s interests, or a Parenting Coordinator may be appointed to help with communication.
Something many people forget during separation is taking care of themselves. Try to do activities you may not have done with your significant other or even with your children — anything from starting a new fitness class online to spending more time with your friends and loved ones. Recognize that self-care is one of the most important routines you should preserve during this time.
If you keep the above tips in mind, separation and divorce during COVID-19 may actually enhance your life. Remember: Your and your children’s happiness is indispensable.
Erin M. Wilson is a family law attorney with her own firm, The Law Office of Erin M. Wilson LLC, offering services in litigation, mediation, parenting coordination and as a child representative & GAL. Erin lives on the North Side of the city with her husband, also a family law
attorney, and two children, Ava (7) and Brecken (5).