#EmiTogether: Matrimonial Attorney, Elysa Greenblatt, on New Family Experiences During COVID-19

This week on #EmiTogether we have matrimonial attorney, Elysa Greenblatt, from NY. Elysa is the owner of Greenblatt Law, a boutique matrimonial and family law firm in Midtown Manhattan. She handles everything you could think of related to family law, from pre-nups to divorce, representing children and adults. Even though she spends her days dealing with divorce, she is happily married with two young children.

Read about how Elysa and her family work on maintaining some ‘normalcy’ during these times, and also about how her work/clients have changed from pre to post-COVID-19.

In light of what’s going on with COVID-19, WFH, and Social Distancing, what are some new routines or rituals that you’ve introduced as a couple or as a family?

Shortly after shelter in place went into effect, we instituted family game time before bed. Our kids are 4 and 6 so game options that are fun for the whole family are somewhat limited, but we have managed to scour the internet and purchase enough to play a different game each night. Favorites include Uno and Scoop Up, although one day while I was working my husband taught them blackjack and that is a new favorite. It seems to be teaching math pretty well so I decided to roll with it.

Our other new routine that I love is exploring area nature preserves and parks. We are city people and in our normal lives have not spent much time on hikes. With everything closed, each Saturday we pick a place that looks to be secluded to make social distancing easy. We slather on the sunscreen and bug spray and hit the road. We are in CT for the time being so that makes it easier to find these areas. The kids delight in the “new to them” things we see. We see horses and cows out our windows on the way, geese by all of the ponds and last week we even saw a Mama Bear with her cub, which was a highlight of these few months for them.

What are you doing intentionally for you and your partner to stay sane during this challenging period?

Before COVID-19, we had dinner together as a family every night except Saturday, which was our night to go out or have a later meal with fancy wine. We have kept that routine going, although dinners out are not possible anymore. During the week we figure out something special we want to make, such as risotto or pan seared halibut, and we agree on a wine to pair it with. Keeping up this night for us gives us time to unwind together and helps us maintain some normalcy from pre-COVID times. And now we are staying out of NYC with my parents and they have hundreds of amazing bottles to choose from!

We also have taken this time to watch Game of Thrones (finally). It’s our most consistent nightly ritual. We never watched before and started watching one episode a night in mid-March. At the time we joked about wondering which would end sooner — the pandemic or Game of Thrones. With just 7 episodes left in the series and no end to stay at home orders in New York City in sight, we seem to have our answer. 

Can you inspire us with something positive that came out of this situation?

The Zoom Happy Hour! Before COVID, I faced that typical working mom dilemma of not being able to juggle everything. The ball that dropped most often was catching up with friends. With everyone at home, people are looking for connection and for me that has meant reconnecting with a lot of friends that I don’t see often. Some I have not seen in years. I host a weekly Zoom Happy Hour for a Smith College alum parenting group that I moderate. My book club  that became defunct when we all had kids has reignited and will be meeting virtually each month. My extended family gets together over Zoom every once in a while to catch up. While it’s kind of sad that we had to be in the midst of a pandemic to find time to “see” each other, having these virtual meet-ups has been a wonderful silver lining.

With all children at home and both parents working, how do you divide up child-care and home duties? How do you balance work?

We both work full-time while trying to effectively homeschool our two kids. It’s a lot. We tag team so that one of us is on homeschool duty while the other has scheduled calls and web meetings. We moved up to CT temporarily in early April so that my parents could help out when we both have to work at the same time and so the kids could go outside alone in the backyard. I also am able to do a lot of my work at night after the kids are in bed so that I can spend time with the kids in the late afternoons.

What have you seen change from before and after the pandemic? What has been the most positive change that came out of it?

A lot of my practice involves litigation in court. Courts in New York shut down at the same time as schools for all but certain emergency cases. That did not mean that conflict stopped. Without court as a place to fight about their differences, people needed to work together to find solutions. While we still have high conflict cases in which the parties cannot agree on anything, some parents have begun to work together to face this crisis in ways we never thought possible. For example, I have a few cases in which the parents have agreed that one parent can take the children out of NYC to a second home or to stay with family so that the children have more space and the ability to get outside more easily. I’ve even seen the parent with a second home option invite their ex to come stay as well. In some of these cases, these parents could not agree on anything pre-COVID but now they really need to work together. 

On the other end from divorce, a lot of people seem to be using this time to check pre-nups off of their pre-wedding checklist. With a lot of wedding venues cancelling or postponing for some time, this means there is plenty of time to get a good draft agreed upon and signed so as not to worry about it when getting into later wedding plans. It’s always a good idea to get the pre-nup out of the way early on and now you can!