Mind the Gap: Divorce in the Time of COVID, Social Distancing, Civil Unrest, and Economic Uncertainty

If you have ever been to London, England and ridden the “tube” (or subway as we call it), you would have heard the following repeatedly from the speakers somewhere overhead: “Mind the Gap” in a pleasant British accent. Wikipedia defines the phrase as, “an audible or visual warning issued to rail passengers to take caution while crossing the gap between the train door and the station platform.” It would make sense to refer to the six feet of social distancing we adhere to as “minding the gap,” mostly because it is easier to say than “you are not six feet away,” and more pleasant than “back up, you are too close.” A law office and their staff caught on to this phrase quickly, and it’s now the catchphrase of their office for social distancing.  But what does it have to do with divorce, COVID, civil unrest, and economic uncertainty?

The Unknown Factors of Divorce
Mind the gap is a phrase that applies to all four issues. When people are contemplating divorce, they are standing on the platform of marriage, looking at the train that will take them away to a new unknown destination: life after divorce. Or they are looking at the gap, the black hole of the unknown that divorce represents — what will it cost?  What will happen to the children? Will I ever find someone else? Will I be better or worse off? For some, the decision is easy, for others, with one foot on the platform and one on the train, the process of deciding is almost paralyzing.

It’s an odd tale of two economies we are facing — some haven’t been severely impacted by COVID policies, while others are struggling to make ends meet. If you are in a marriage where the two are combined, the gap between the financials of each spouse is not just something you read about or see on television or social media — it is real and in your house.

Difficult Time for Divorce
Add to the mix the racial inequality, made all the more obvious by recent events, the divisive political landscape and looming elections, nationwide protests and riots, and the economic fallout due to the pandemic, and it’s a wonder anyone can make the decision to leave their house, let alone divorce their spouse. The worst place to be is in two worlds. Without a clear decision to get a divorce or stay in the marriage, the tools needed to effectuate the path forward can’t exist. The longer a person stays with one foot on the platform and one on the train, the more likely they are to have it negatively impact their mental health, relationship with their children, job capacity, and financials.  

Unprecedented Times
This is a historic issue, but one that has become a greater problem for married couples who were struggling before the pandemic. There was a time when the courts in Washington state weren’t even allowing a divorce petition to be filed, so it wasn’t an option to proceed forward. While many offices are working under different parameters, the courts are now “open” and fully able to process divorces. Marriage counseling is also now widely available via Zoom, and in some locations in person. Either way, the choice to stay in a marriage or leave is available.  

Making a Decision
If, after a long quarantine with your spouse, you still haven’t decided whether you are going to stay or leave, realize that the time to do so is never going to be “good.” There is never a “good” time for a divorce: either it’s time to move on or it’s not. The worst, however, is the limbo. Make a choice, and either hire a divorce attorney or a therapist, or both, but get on the train or move your foot back to the platform before someone gets hurt. Contact a lawyer, like a divorce lawyer in Gig Harbor, WA from Robinson & Hadeed Family Law, for ideas on what to do next.