How has the pandemic impacted divorce?
It is no surprise that family law experts are reporting an increase in divorce filings in recent months. The pressures of the pandemic, of stay-at-home orders and quarantines, shined a spotlight on marital issues that were otherwise ignored or downplayed while couples focused on other interests. Upon a closer review, many couples decided their marital issues were insurmountable.
The pandemic has done more than speed up the timeline for some divorces. Other impacts include:
- Process. It is unlikely that couples will meet up in a court in front of a judge or in a room with a mediator to navigate the divorce. Many courts and mediators have chosen to conduct these meetings using a virtual forum. Meetings on Zoom and similar platforms are not uncommon.
- Timeline. Divorce can take time, but divorce during a pandemic they can take even longer. Why? Getting paperwork completed, notarized, and filed with the court can take significantly longer now that businesses and courts are not operating as usual. Simply scheduling a meeting with a bank to gather information about investment portfolios to help the asset division portion of the divorce can take much more effort now than for a pre-pandemic divorce.
- Power. The delays make the prospect of settling even more attractive. This could lead one partner to pressure another to agree to a less than ideal settlement.
Those who find themselves considering a divorce are wise to be aware of these issues. With these in mind, couples can help ease the transition to post-divorce life by asking themselves the following questions.
#1: Am I financially prepared for divorce?
One of the most contentious portions of the divorce involves asset division. Calculate your budget before beginning negotiations so you know how much you will need for living arrangements and other expenses. Gather paperwork and make a list of marital assets before beginning negotiations.
#2: If children are present, how will we navigate custody?
This is particularly difficult during the pandemic. Will the children stay in one home and the parents rotate during their time, or will the children go to two different homes? Will the children participate in extracurricular activities? If not, at what point will the kids partake in these activities? Having an idea of where you stand on these questions as well as which ones you are willing to negotiate will help to guide the child custody discussions.
It is important to note that you do not have to go through the divorce alone. An attorney can advocate for your interests and reduce the risk of any surprises once the divorce is finalized.