The difficulties that divorcing families are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID 19 effects on individual and family life have caught a broad aspect. Divorcing or post-divorced families have been one of the most impacted categories during the pandemic. The addition of other stressors to divorce potentiates negative effects on individual and relational functioning. This places family members at risk for a range of difficulties.

Firstly, COVID-19 has both potentiated and constrained separation and divorce. That is because both COVID-19 and sheltering-in-place raise stress and create more rigid boundaries between the nuclear family and those outside the family. Additionally, parental responsibilities during the pandemic, have increased work stress, especially for women who are becoming responsible for most of these tasks. Therefore, couples fall into angry encounters without resolution or into patterns of demand-withdrawal. These can degenerate into protracted high conflict and sometimes domestic violence.


Divorcing usually occurs in a process of physically and emotionally separated households and dealing with several related legal issues that have to do with the division of money and time with children. But all these tasks have been much more difficult during COVID-19. For example, one adult spending a few days in a hotel or with a neighbor or family member as a temporary step in the process, is now fully dependent on a such hotel being open or that support person being prepared to deal with the COVID-19 risks involvement. Moreover, long periods of separation from home are less likely, therefore, everyone is at home at the same time.

Most importantly, the legal system is either not open or does not proceed with a major backlog of cases.


The problem continues to exist for those who are proceeding through divorce. Usually, the process is slow, but due to COVID 19, it can stop for a long time, especially if there are difficult and contentious issues that need to be negotiated.


COVID-19 itself has had a major impact on family finances. This, in turn, makes the resolution of conflicts over money more difficult. Hence, the fear, that one or both parties will simply not have enough money once one household is being divided into two, is enabled and becomes a constraint to resolution.


Post-divorce co-parenting relationships and parent-child relationships are also affected by the pandemic. Shelter-in-place and social distancing, asks divorcing and divorced families to designate who is in and who is out of the family system.


To mitigate these stressful experiences inside the family during the pandemic, but not only, couple and family therapy with divorcing couples is highly suggested.

Source: The Challenges of COVID-19 for Divorcing and Post-divorce Families
Jay L. Lebow 2020
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