What You Need to Know About Getting Divorced During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The COVID-19 Outbreak has disrupted much of life as we used to know it … plans are now being put on hold … things that we used to do without thought now require a great deal of consideration.
If you were in the midst of divorce or were planning to file for divorce when the Coronavirus hit, you may be wondering what your next move should be.
Of course, you will need to consider a lot of different factors in order to make the best decision for yourself – but at The Irving Law Firm we are discovering that our clients who are considering a divorce or have a pending case are still able to take steps forward during this crisis.
What Can You Do if You Choose to Proceed With Your Case?
You can meet with your lawyer (virtually), work out issues through mediation, and push forward on required financial and settlement paperwork.
You could also use this extra time at home to gather up your necessary documents, which should include:
- Tax Returns
- Bank Statements
- Credit Card Statements
- Retirement Accounts
- Brokerage or Other Account Statements
- Phone Records
You Can Also Take Advantage of Technology
One way to move your divorce or child custody case forward despite the Coronavirus Outbreak is to take advantage of modern technology – such as video conferencing and live streaming.
In fact, courts in some areas of the country are now streaming hearings live on YouTube or Facebook Live channels to keep their courts open to the public during the Coronavirus Outbreak.
You may be able to meet with attorneys or even conduct mediations online through video conferencing technology.
But is Now Really the Right Time to Get Divorced?
As always, the answer depends very much on your particular situation.
As an example, for many business owners now might be a very desirable time to get divorced due to their business values being down.
On the other hand, attempting to determine what someone’s support obligations/rights would be right now could be very difficult if that person is out of work and doesn’t know what their income will be POST COVID-19.
Obviously, a lot of different factors may need to be considered. Speak to a lawyer to ensure you weigh everything that you should and are able to make the best decision about going forward or not.
What About Child Custody Issues?
Even though courts are closed and proceedings are delayed, lawyers are still actively in contact with the courts – so if you have a serious child custody issue you can and should keep pushing for a resolution.
Regarding non-serious issues, if you have an existing custody order, you should, if at all possible, continue to follow it. Please keep in mind that failing to follow the order and withholding custody could lead to negative consequences in the future.
In fact, many states (including California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts) have already ruled that visitation is an essential function that should continue even when shelter-in-place orders have been issued.
So again, if you have an existing custody order you should try to follow it. If you decide you can’t follow the order due to the Coronavirus, you should take diligent notes.
Write down exactly what happened and why and then be sure to keep those notes in a secure location that you can easily access. You should also strongly consider offering make-up time for the time that was withheld.
If your spouse isn’t letting you see your kids, don’t try to immediately involve the authorities to enforce visitation rights. Talk to a lawyer first to see if he or she can help you resolve the situation.
Also, Consider Mediation & Parenting Coordinators to Resolve Disputes
Mediation is a process where you (with your lawyer) and your spouse (with his/her lawyer) meet with a neutral trained person (known as a “mediator”) who doesn’t know either of you and who tries to help you and your spouse reach an agreement regarding the issues involved in the dispute.
We have found that it’s possible to use mediation for many disputes, even in high conflict situations.
Mediation also has other benefits during the Coronavirus Outbreak. For one thing, mediations can be held virtually while the courthouses are closed so you may be able to get a faster resolution to the issue. We are currently doing virtual mediations which could save you money, time and frustration.
You could also consider engaging a parenting coordinator (PC) to help you resolve difficult custodial issues especially during the pandemic. A PC can make decisions on a temporary or long term basis. We have experienced PC’s who can work with you through virtual consultations so you can resolve issues that need immediate or long term resolutions to keep your family safe.
So You Do Have Options Available
Many people today are feeling trapped at home with very few options for proceeding forward. They feel stuck in place.
As we’ve outlined in this article there are options available to you regarding any divorce and child custody issues that you may be facing. The first step is to talk to a good lawyer and get expert advice on what may be the best way for you to proceed in your current situation.