As we approach the “Corona-versary” of a year in lock-down, this post reflects on how much our lives have been impacted by the global pandemic.
We have all heard it. COVID-19 has created a swell in new divorce filings. As practitioners, we are experiencing it. As friends, we are seeing it in our own social circles. As we turn the pages of our morning papers and weekly magazines, we are inundated with articles about the rise of the “Coronavirus divorce.” As other industries have slowed, ours has seemingly surged. We have had to adapt to a completely new way of practice. Something that is easier said than done in a field that has been entrenched in a system of “the way things are done” for so long.
Over the course of the last year, we as family law attorneys have had to transform our practice and work routine. No more packed elevator rides to crowded courtrooms. No more banter in the hallways with long time colleagues about the latest legal issues we are facing. No more in person meetings with clients. For a practice entrenched in personal connections, the business of “relationships” has had to evolve to meet the demands of our new virtual reality.
We have all grappled with this public health crisis, not only professionally but personally. A recurring theme of many conversations I have with peers, friends and family members is the anxiety everyone is feeling about the long-lasting effect of COVID-19 on our families. This is true for our clients as well. While Marital Settlement Agreements and Parental Allocation Judgments and court orders can all lay out legal obligations and rights of the parties; they have all, until very recently, been silent as to how to deal with pandemics!
Many families and divorced couples have been faced with one or both parties being out of work. Many have been forced to work from home. Many have had to juggle the demands of remote-learning with the rigors of their own career. Undoubtedly, the stress and conflict caused by this shift in our everyday lives has had and is going to continue to have rippling effects on our practice.
As we experienced a halt in court operations early in the pandemic, we adapted by pivoting to zoom mediations to seek effective resolution to cases. As we have felt delays in scheduling due to backlogged court calendars, we focused on collaboration by holding virtual settlement conferences with the aid of break-out rooms and screen-shares. As we have been faced with novel issues (parenting time modifications due to periods of mandatory quarantine, support modifications due to pandemic related unemployment, etc.), we have been forced to think “outside the box” to craft creative solutions for our clients.
While some practitioners may prefer the old way of practice, I believe, our “new normal” has forced us to be more strategic, more compassionate, more creative, more efficient and more human. We have had to confront divorce in the virtual age and make necessary and much needed changes to the systems in place. Let’s hope the lessons we have learned over the last year will stay with us long after this pandemic is behind us.