Five Steps To Consider When Contemplating A Divorce During The COVID19 Pandemic
In the midst of this pandemic, many are speculating that the aftermath will result in a baby boom or a rise in the number of divorces. Perhaps there will be a bit of both. It is undisputed that there are typically an influx of divorce cases after the holidays and summer break because these are times when people spend a lot of time together, after which, they may realize that their relationship is not working. With the outbreak of COVID 19 and people being forced to shelter at home, many couples are similarly recognizing that they cannot continue in their present relationship. People are reflecting on their lives and are deciding to make changes.
A prior post addressed, five tips to consider before filing a divorce generally. While these tips are still applicable, given the current situation with couples being forced to stay and work at home, added financial pressures, and many courts being temporarily closed or operating on a limited basis, there are some additional considerations that are now appropriate for those contemplating divorce now or in the future:
- Seek Out Advice– The first thing to do if you are contemplating divorce is to seek out advice about the process, the law and what particular issues you may be facing. Being fully informed will give you a sense of control at a time when most things seem so out of control. Ask those you know and trust to provide some recommendations for lawyers who specialize in divorce/family law in your jurisdiction and then schedule some appointments. Although an in-person meeting is probably not feasible at this time, most practitioners are willing to schedule a phone or video consult, and in fact they may be more readily available now since most judicial proceedings have been suspended while the courts are closed. A thorough consult will provide you with necessary information to make a decision as to whether you want to proceed, the timing of same, and guidance as to how to move forward.
- Gather Necessary Documents– With most activities being suspended and people staying home, now is an opportune to gather documents that will be necessary if you are planning to divorce. Important financial documents include tax returns and income information as well as documents regarding retirement accounts and investments, debt, insurance information, appraisals of property, etc. Even if you were never interested in or participated in the finances, it is never too late to try to identify and understand this information. Contact your accountant or financial advisor if you need assistance. If you proceed with a divorce, having some of this information ready will likely save you time and money in the long-run. It is also an opportune time to understand your finances and figure out your expenses. This is a useful exercise whether or not you ultimately proceed with a divorce. Consider that things may have changed financially with the temporary closure of some workplaces.
- Determine A Plan– This is the time to consider your options and figure out a game plan. If you and your spouse are in agreement that the marriage is over and are amicable, this may be a perfect opportunity to discuss the issues and to see if there are matters to which you can agree. Mediation is and arbitration remain viable options at this time by way of video conferencing. You can also work with your respective lawyers to negotiate and memorialize an overall settlement agreement. Most courts still remain open to receive filings such as divorce complaints if you want to start the process. Importantly, there are avenues to move forward.
- Keep Calm– Being cooped up at home in an unhappy relationship is difficult and the added pressure of being faced with a pandemic that is causing death and economic devastation certainly makes it that much harder. Harsh words by way of email and text even when you are living in the same house can come back to haunt you in a future proceeding, and explosive or violent behavior may result in a domestic violence action, which are still being heard by the courts. Instead, find ways to remain cool and calm. Seek out assistance by way of a remote therapist and/or lean on your support system – there are still people out there who are willing to listen and help you. Meditate, go outside for some fresh air, or find other ways to calm yourself and avoid constant confrontation.
- Prioritize Your Children– When there are children involved, it is important to remember that being a parent should take precedence over any personal differences you are facing with your spouse. For the sake of the children, it is best to keep them as insulated as possible from marital discord. Keep in mind, that despite your differences, you will need to continue to parent together even if your marriage does not last.
Divorce can be devastating no matter when it occurs. However, in these unprecedented times, it is more challenging than ever. Following the foregoing tips, however, will hopefully make things a bit easier now and moving forward.