As the “longest year ever” starts to draw to a close, we turn to thoughts of the holidays. The Halloween inflatables have come down, the candy has been eaten (except for that secret stash in the pantry!), and plans are being made for Thanksgiving and beyond. But how to plan and how to celebrate in this year of COVID-19? Extended families are separated by masks and geography. Many of us have experienced unspeakable loss since March, and all of us have dealt with fear, uncertainty, and an unsettling new normal. Some families have been challenged to the breaking point. This has resulted in an increased number of new divorce filings, with many additional families teetering on that possibility.
Do you wish your family was in a better place? Do you fear that these holidays could be the breaking point? Is this your first holiday season in two homes? Honestly, are you struggling with even thinking about the holidays this year?
Dedicated collaborative divorce professionals are focused on the health of families even in the midst of this worldwide health crisis. Each of us has been trained to help families divorce differently – in a way that is private, respectful, and tailored to the specific needs of our individual clients and their children. We do this because we value families and want to cushion and dignify the divorce process, especially when divorce comes during a pandemic. Adding the holidays on top of COVID-19 and divorce can create issues that parents just cannot resolve on their own. Since the pandemic began, an increasing number of my clients have turned to the collaborative process precisely because it can facilitate quick, custom, and thoughtful solutions to novel challenges.
For parents going through a collaborative divorce right now, holiday possession schedules are a big focus. Likewise Covid precautions between two homes, continued decisions about in-person versus remote school attendance for children, and worries about holiday travel to see extended families and the exposure risks that might pose. Bluntly stated, the Courts can’t help you with these issues. The system is not designed to quickly hear and solve these problems. The Family Code doesn’t contain provisions about Covid. Although our Judges care passionately about families, they are already overbooked and overburdened conducting necessary Zoom hearings about bigger picture matters.
Collaborative practitioners are constantly learning and adapting. Lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals from around the world gathered virtually last month for the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals’ Forum 2020 to share knowledge, insights, and strategies that can help troubled families in these troubled times. Many collaborative professionals across Texas are already busy planning the State Bar’s Annual Collaborative Law Course which will take place in early Spring, with new Covid-related topics on the agenda.
Divorce is never easy, and the collaborative process isn’t a magical solution to make it so. But it is a process that listens to and answers our clients’ goals for their families and their very specific and real fears brought about by our continued navigation of life during Covid. And I’ll go out on a limb and say that divorce professionals who dedicate the extra time and effort to become trained and proficient in the collaborative process are exactly the professionals you want by your side during this pandemic – when extra time and effort is required for just about everything.
I’m proud to be a member of Collaborative Divorce Texas and Collaborative Divorce Collin County, and to help my clients via the collaborative process. On behalf of my collaborative colleagues, I’ll share this quote for all divorcing parents who are facing the upcoming holiday season with reluctance or fear: “Remember diamonds are created under pressure so hold on, it will be your time to shine soon.” May you survive the holidays and the passage of 2020 and find the bright, shining future you desire and deserve.