It’s not a subject we want to broach too lightly at the best of times and most of us can agree that this is not the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced relationships, finances, and mental health across the board. As such, it might not be the best timing for a divorce.
However, for a lot of people, there isn’t much choice in the matter. If you need to end your marriage during this particularly difficult time, however, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Dealing with your ex during the quarantine
The rules regarding quarantine and lockdowns change from location to location and based on ever-evolving stances by the local government.
However, if you are quarantined and have already made it clear that you want to split from your partner, then their cooperation is likely to be necessary until you can get some real distance between you.
Communicate as openly and honestly as you can without being unnecessarily hurtful, and try to set up boundaries in the shared home so that you can live alongside one another in relative peace for as long as possible.
Finances can get complicated in a divorce and that’s even more true when there are a lot of complicated accounts, overseas interests, kids, and pensions or 401k plans. If you have a complicated financial situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to Peters and May for some honest, heartfelt, and accurate advice.
This may also include willfully distancing yourself from them so that you have some privacy and not cause unintentional hurt.
Look at your options for ending the marriage
Though they all typically fall under the informal banner of “divorce,” there are a lot of ways that a marriage can end.
For instance, a pro se divorce can see a couple settle things entirely without the help of attorneys, even filing their own paperwork.
Mediation is similar, but there is a neutral third party to help both parties negotiate the settlement of assets in the marriage. Attorney to attorney is where both parties hire a lawyer to negotiate the divorce on their behalf.
Litigation is what most people fear, but it’s usually only saved for the most contentious of divorces. If you have room to, then you should consider looking at the other types of divorce with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Gather what documents you can ASAP
One of the things about this ongoing pandemic is that it has made it clear that the reliability of the institutions we need is not certain and can, in fact, change on a fairly regular basis.
To that end, now is the best time to make sure you have the documents that are necessary for a divorce. You are likely to need a range of documents, including those that offer proof of income, real estate ownership, account ownership, life insurance, marital debt, and more.
The process of applying for and receiving some of these documents can already be length. Consider the delay that divorce can add to such processes as a good reason to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing comes first and foremost
Everyone is feeling the impact of the pandemic on their lives in some shape or form.
The stress and anxieties it can introduce to our lives can have a serious impact on our mental health. It’s important to take steps to get the support you need, be it through regular contact with friends, finding someone in your family to talk to, or even online counseling sessions to help you express your thoughts and better manage your emotions.
A divorce during a pandemic is pressing two tough times together and it’s far from unreasonable to expect someone to have trouble with that.
Are your finances in the right place?
To some people, putting an end to marriage that isn’t working or has plenty of cause to have an end put to it is worth almost any cost.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should be flippant about the costs of hiring a divorce lawyer or not do your research on the typical fees. Most lawyers are not going to change their costs as a result of the pandemic. However, the average person’s ability to pay for them can be impacted due to the uncertainty of future employment.
As such, it may be wise to set aside a legal fee that can cover the costs of the case for as long as possible to do what you can to ensure that your money to pay for your case doesn’t simply run out partway through.
Organizing the logistics of the divorce
Since quarantine may be affecting your area, it may not always be possible to manage the different processes of the divorce in person as you might normally.
If you and your spouse are not quarantined in the same household, then you may want to try reaching an agreement that could see you arranging the divorce through phone and video meetings instead.
This will bring up some privacy concerns, so it’s wise to do this with the help of your attorneys who can help you ensure a private environment alongside some agreements on how meetings can occur as safely and reliably as possible.
In-person meetings might be able to be held at some point, albeit you may want to bring a face mask.
Managing child custody
Though not always necessarily a part of a divorce, child custody can make any case more complicated and when there’s a pandemic going on, this effect can be compounded several times over.
Child custody cases can be affected by the different stages of lockdown imposed during the pandemic. One of the single best ways to manage this issue is to follow the existing custody plan for as long as possible, documenting the decisions you make related to your child’s care throughout the period.
If you think that you need to make a change for the safety of your child during this period, then communicate it with your lawyer as soon as possible, and they may indicate what steps need to be taken to inform the court and co-parent.
Keeping a stress free environment for your children
Any divorce involving children is going to be tough, even if there isn’t going to be a need for any child custody case immediately.
As such, it’s crucial to make sure that you and your ex-spouse are taking the wellbeing of the children into mind as best as possible. Isolation may make it easier than ever for tensions to build and arguments to build out.
As such, it is crucial to try and keep hostility to a minimum around your children and to avoid talking to them about any negative feelings you might have towards the other parent.
Point-scoring may feel gratifying in the short-term, but the potential for long-lasting trauma in children going through a divorce is well-documented.
Keep in touch with your lawyer
Your lawyer is going to be the first person to know about any of the changes that might affect the divorce itself.
Since the divorce relies on working courts to see each step process as planned, any delays to the operation of the court can delay the divorce itself.
Since we’ve been in this situation for a while now, courts have managed to find their own ways to adapt.
However, the unorthodox working conditions can change the filing of motions, how hearings are held, and when divorces are finalized. Your lawyer will provide you with the updates you might need, but it’s important to expect there to be some uncertainty in the process.
Avoid making rash decisions
If you have already got legal representation involved, then it is unwise to take any major actions without consulting them first.
Some of the most common mistakes made during a divorce involve trying to make changes to any assets without first getting a legal judgment that would enable you to do so. As such, you shouldn’t try to sell off investments or to liquidate your assets.
Not only could it be risky legally, but it should jeopardize your own finances at a time when they’re more vulnerable than ever. Talk to your lawyer if you want to make any moves regarding your assets or finances.
Be willing to put it on hold
This is perhaps not a thought that you will want to hear, but it’s not necessary to continue going through to the end of the divorce process simply because you have already got the ball rolling.
You and your future ex-spouse can decide to stop the legal process for some time. This can help you deal with some of the other challenges brought up by the pandemic, such as changing jobs, dealing with financial stresses, or finding a new living situation to help you better accommodate one another.
It’s not the best of times to be making any major decisions revolving around your financial life or your children’s future, so it’s to be expected that some people may decide to delay the divorce process until things can calm to some degree.
Divorce is never easy and it’s going to be especially challenging during a pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. If you need to go through a divorce during the pandemic, hopefully, the information can be involved.