April 28, 2020 in Family Law

Unforeseen Family Law Consequences for Mothers from a Pandemic

Mothers have seen their traditional or multiple roles upended and are beginning to realize that they have been missing out on other opportunities. Some dads are out of work and are staying at home while the mothers have become the primary income producers. Fathers have begun to assert more parental authority, and this is creating relationship conflicts in a variety of areas. Dividing up work and parental supervision responsibilities have become trigger points in some relationships while the unilateral disruption of established routines has caused significant conflict in others. Children do not understand remote working demands and are constantly seeking attention from the at home parents.

Stay at home mothers would spend virtually their entire day preparing food, shuttling kids to and from day care, school, activities, shopping, homework, cleaning house, kids and clothes. Now they are day care providers and full-time educators as well. Some fathers are helping to carry the load on this very large burden while others are not.

Marika Lindholm, a sociologist and former single mother is the founder of Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere (ESME), says that single moms operate under constant threat and COVID-19 has added to their feeling like “Canaries in the Coal Mine”. Canaries would be sacrificed and give warning to approaching toxic gases when they would stop singing and die so that the miners could escape. Lindholm identifies four (4) recurring fears of single mothers and states that over 20 million children in the United States are counting on the rest of us to notice and make changes to help support them. These fears are:

1. Being so sick that they cannot care for their children. They worry about what will happen to their children, if something happens to them;

2. Ex-Spouses and Fathers who engage in practices that jeopardize their children’s health. In the current pandemic, exposure and transmission to children can lead to exposure, illness and even death to a solo mom. They ask what risks are they required to endure either from exposure during visits or during exchanges or even from pent up volatility from increasingly isolated parents. For solo Moms that previously had to endure domestic violence, this can be a terrifying prospect;

3. Losing their jobs and their incomes because they are being required to stay home with their children. Schools and day care centers are either closed or open to parents of first responders or health care personnel that are exposed at much higher rates. These moms are trying to work, provide care during the day and be educators on top of all of their other chores. This makes parenting much, much harder; and

4. Not being able to feed or house their children. Child support may have stopped due to fathers having lost their work, government assistance is very slow and their own income is dropping or non-existent. It is a very real concern that there will not be enough food or there will be an inability to pay the rent. Just going to the grocery store carries risk and some parents have to take their children with them because they have no one to watch them while the shop for food and other necessities.

Career mothers have assumed almost monumental burdens in some households. In addition to juggling all of the demands listed above, some have become the sole income source for the family. Fathers have been furloughed or laid off and mothers either have to go to work out of the home at certain essential positions or stay at home and financially provide for the family at the same time. Income to expense margins have become very tight, and this can place huge financial and emotional burdens on a working mom who was already stretched thin prior to the pandemic. When the father or other parent is working against the ability of the mother to handle all of these demands, the situation can become unbearable. But even the thought of taking action seems impossible. Court access is restricted to essential matters. Separation seems impossible from a financial and health perspective. Kids need parents to pull together in trying times, and the idea of splitting up and exposing the kids and yourself to very real health risks seems to be outweighed by safety concerns. Some parents who have decided to divorce have wound up having to continue to reside in the same home, which, in itself creates tremendous difficulties.

On the other hand, some women have been empowered by the pandemic in a strange set of ways. Some have become the sole provider. Some have experienced significant role reversal or just are more appreciated by fathers who did not have a real sense of the demands of everyday parenting. Some have a better appreciation on the demands that were on the other parent. For all the bad things that are happening, this pandemic is creating opportunities for parents to change how they co-parent. An Austin Psychologist, Carl Pickhardt, Pd.D. says that a crisis like the pandemic can create a non-usual situation which can bring out the very best in parents. Like divorce, a pandemic teaches kids a lot about who their parents are.

You may have an urgent situation that needs an immediate remedy. You may need to change a Decree or enter some different kind of orders or you just may need to re-arrange an existing agreement. The attorneys at Connolly Schneider Shireman are experienced with handling a variety of family law matters and are available for a consultation. If you have found yourself facing unforeseen family law consequences due to the coronavirus pandemic and would like to discuss your options with knowledgeable attorneys, give us a call today.

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