In the midst of the COVID-19 era after prolonged quarantine together, many couples are determining that they are no longer compatible. Whether it is the inability to escape from each other, financial stress, lack of exercise, fighting over household responsibilities or conflicts over parenting, couples that already had underlying problems in their relationships are finding quarantine to be the final driver to a divorce. Others are using the time to reevaluate priorities and finding that their marriage is no longer suiting their needs.
Even couples that believed they were in the ideal marriage have struggled with one another while quarantined. Whatever the reason, deciding whether to get divorced is a personal–and often difficult–process that impacts not only you and your spouse, but your children and extended family. Spreading the news of an impending divorce can be hurtful to your children and can actually compromise your position as you negotiate custody and child support. Because it is so sensitive, divorced couples must be very mindful of whom to trust as confidants as they navigate the process.
Once you’ve made the decision to get a divorce, this is not the time to run around telling your side of the story to whoever will listen. Instead, surround yourself with a few trusted confidants, and keep everyone else at arm’s length to best protect yourself as you navigate the process of divorce. Here’s what you should know:
It is Nobody’s Fault… Even If It Is
Once you make the decision to proceed with a divorce, it’s in everyone’s interest to move forward quickly. Letting it fester creates unnecessary drama and puts too much stress on everyday family life. New Jersey is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce, and fault is not a factor in the resolution in most issues. This relieves pressure when you are asked why you are getting divorced because you do not need to and should not share any private details.
People often have very strong opinions about divorce and are frequently not shy about expressing them. When you share the news of your divorce, expect a myriad of responses. Some people will be empathetic, others will offer details about their own divorce drama, while others will make well-intentioned, but unnecessary suggestions for lawyers, therapists, financial advisors, real estate agents, etc. Others will dig for gossip to share in the carpool line. It is in your best interest, as well as your children’s, to stay away from both the family and community rumor mills.
Who Do I Trust?
First and foremost, find an attorney you like and who you believe will properly represent your interests. You may need to visit a few to find the right fit. When you share your story with your attorneys, do not hold anything back from them. They need to have the full picture–the good, bad and the ugly!
It’s also very important to establish a support system at the beginning of the process. You may need to find a therapist for yourself and for your children. Having neutral, professional guidance through this process is incredibly beneficial and will help you and your children better cope with the upheaval that divorce inevitably creates.
Identify one or two friends or family members as confidants. You will need their support along the way to share heartache, request advice, vent, then help with your children. Keep the circle small–you don’t want to share your personal details with too many people. You want to be sure you’re in control of what you’re sharing and with whom.
You don’t want to fuel the rumor mill or accidentally reveal your attorney’s strategy – potentially undermining your own best interests. You also want to be sure that you protect your children from further pain over their parents’ divorce. Imagine if your child got wind of private details of your divorce while sitting on the school bus? Or overhead a friend’s parent gossiping about you? In the climate of divorce, you would be shocked at how even the most innocent facts can be twisted and manipulated to hurt you.
And speaking of your kids—remember, they are not your confidants. As tempting as it might be to spill your true feelings about your spouse, remember that you’re speaking about their other parent. Be very careful not to blur the line between parent and friend. Reassure your children that the divorce is not their fault, that both parents love them and are committed to being good parents to them. They aren’t getting divorced from their parents. Speak of your ex the way you would want to be spoken of so that your children do not feel as though they have to choose between their parents, or harbor resentment against their parents.
Stay Off Social Media
During this difficult and private time in your life, don’t share the details of your life on social media. It’s fine to post friendly, positive comments on other people’s posts, but refrain from saying anything snarky, and don’t post any photos or insights into your own life that could be taken out of context or seen in an unflattering way. You don’t want to undermine the work your lawyer is doing with a thoughtless tweet or risqué Instagram photo. Once your comments are out there, they are public and cannot be removed. Remember that deleting something doesn’t make it disappear. A good rule to guide you is that if you wouldn’t publish your picture or comment on the front page of a newspaper, simply don’t put it out there.
Divorce is personal and difficult. Keeping matters as private as possible with help from professionals ensures that the process is as smooth as possible.
Evan R. Weinstein is a Partner at Weinstein Family Law, A Professional Corporation, located in Short Hills, New Jersey. His practice is devoted exclusively to family law and related matters. In addition to representing parties in contested matters, Mr. Weinstein is also available for private mediations. Mr. Weinstein has written for various local and national publications and has lectured on a variety of family law issues.