The rise of the global health pandemic has caused ripples in many parts of society, from job uncertainty and loss, to loneliness at home. And some other opportune ones like the awkward triumph of the introvert that perseveres with less human-to-human contact. Unfortunately, cabin fever with our loved ones has also led to increased anxiety and mental health triggers leading to the strain of our most immediate relationships at this time. While we are all doing our best to keep our head up and get through this independently or with those around us, it gets harder without the outside support of family, friends and work colleagues outside of the house. Love in the time of the coronavirus has become a make-or-break moment for many couples — whether they’re spending too much time together in cohabitation, too much time apart in case of a long-distance relationship, or just struggling to communicate effectively as they co-exist. While some have reported that their relationships have gotten better, divorce lawyers across the U.S. are reporting a significant uptick in divorce inquiries since the onset of COVID-19. We hate to see a health crisis also turn into a relationship crisis for so many, but sometimes space and distance apart is needed to ease growing tensions and salvage any hope for reconciliation post-pandemic. Oftentimes, this starts with a discussion about immediate and temporary housing for both parties as a means to breathe and deliberate in peace.
Married couples, common law co-habitants, as well as partners newly living together are all discovering life and love under lockdown. With what’s looking to be multiple months of self-isolation, many of those in a fraying relationship suddenly have an abundance of time to consider the very basis of their union and its worth. An L.A.-based office manager reflecting on her partnership recently told The Atlantic that “Quarantining has amplified any issues we’ve had in our marriage.” These doubts are only compounded by COVID-related destabilizers such as being in an at-risk health group (or caring for someone who is), being affected by job instability or layoffs, and adjusting to a rhythm of life under confinement that most of us have never seen before. The result is that a number of people have been pushed to their limits.
It’s a tough decision to file for divorce, with the resulting topics of shared custody over children, division of financial assets and property, all the way to the very question of shelter and home up in the air. But it goes without saying that forging your own path and pursuing your own happiness should be the focal point on the horizon. We’ve consulted with Todd Spodek, an NYC-based attorney specialized in criminal defense, and family and matrimonial law about why temporary housing can be a lifeline for those considering a separation during COVID-19.
When a domestic relationship is no longer looking healthy or safe, finding alternative accommodation should be the first step you take on the road to resolution. Not only will you be removing yourself from a potentially dangerous situation should a partner decide to act out, but you’re giving the situation breathing room for a better outcome at the end. Spodek warns that inadvertently a neighbor’s call to the police during a domestic dispute could end in an arrest and criminal record. After such a deemed criminal case goes before a judge, an order of protection could further limit one partner’s ability to return home and even access their belongings.
Secondly, by moving out, you will remove a stressor sooner rather than later. No more fretting over shared chores, linked assets and most importantly, removing a barrier to separation early on.
Should your separation result in officially filing for divorce, it’s good to bear in mind that things move fast and slow in family court (and even slower in 2020 with non-essential hearings being further delayed). Under normal conditions, a divorcee would want to secure temporary housing at a moment’s notice with the expectation that the hearing will last between 3-12 months. Having a safe place to return to during this strained period is the least you can offer yourself while untying the knot. Should you be hiring a divorce attorney, representing yourself pro se, or proceeding with mediations, separation housing provides peace of mind early on.
Leaning on your own locally-based friends and family members is an instinct that practically all of us have when faced with uncertainty or danger. While the prospect of rent-free housing and a familiar face is a lifesaver for the first week, it’s easy to overstay your welcome quickly when occupying a coveted living room or half of the bed! In the age of social distancing, it simply may not be an option based on heightened risk, an inconvenient location, or greater discomfort from also having to adjust your host’s routine. Having a confidant and relative nearby is sought-after support when going through a hard time, but also consider that you are a guest in their house and you may not always get the mental rest you crave.
Again this temporary housing solution wins for being easily booked and ready to receive at a moment’s notice (under normal business circumstances) but past the first few weeks, expect to be confronted by an alarming bill. You’ll be at the mercy of high season demand when tourists and business travelers arrive while running the risk of being booked out. Also keep in mind that you won’t have full facilities at your disposal for doing your own laundry or whipping up a meal in a stocked kitchen.
You may not have been a renter in a few years (or even decades) but go easy on yourself and rent furnished. Not only will you have a ready-to-go homey space waiting for you on the other end, furnished housing providers like Blueground allow you to discreetly book online and check in the very next day in most cases. You can also extend your stay month-by-month while also upgrading your home to add on another bedroom when a child or family member joins later on. In this way, your stay timeline is determined by how your conversations and legal proceedings, if any, are moving along. As such, you’re left with complete control over your stay experience.
Typically, the most cost-effective option, going for an unfurnished apartment affords you the widest selection of prospective apartments. On the other hand, you run the risk of taking weeks to land something, with the prospect of broker haggling and multiple viewings being an added stress you may not have the mental bandwidth to deal with at that time. Furthermore, being locked into a one-year lease is far from ideal during a period of uncertainty. Also keep in mind that you will need to set aside a portion of your budget to sink into furniture costs, utility installation and a broker’s fee (depending on the city). For those looking for an immediate move, an unfurnished apartment may be out of the question with slow-moving landlords taking time to consider all candidates and run background and credit checks.
When you’re confident that you need extra space and privacy to distance yourself from a troubled relationship, a furnished apartment in your city makes for a graceful and less stressful transition. Through Blueground, as pitched in a recent New York Magazine article, you can tour and book a turnkey apartment today and move in tomorrow with all appliances, professional decor and utilities activated. Many of their apartment buildings across their twelve cities worldwide include doorman or concierge services to lend a hand during your adjustment, as well as their own locally-based guest experience team to help you with maintenance issues during your stay. From private studios to spacious two-bedrooms when the kids are joining, their flexible leases also allow you to change between neighborhoods to stay close to work, school or an ex-partner, if necessary.
When embarking on a new chapter and relationship status, don’t forget that support exists on every front. Safety always comes first, but physical and mental space often provide the most immediate solution to provide emotional relief and the headspace to hopefully iron out issues. Finding a solution that minimizes your day-to-day stresses is key, and while times are uncertain – home should never be.