Life during a global pandemic is stressful. Many people are balancing lock-downs with employment uncertainty, financial hardships and kids attending virtual school. Any marital strains that existed before the pandemic are now magnified.
Going through a divorce during a pandemic adds another layer of complexity. There are many aspects of your life now and your potential future life that must be considered. If you are contemplating a divorce, DivorceMag.com offers ten tips to help you navigate divorce during a pandemic:
- Your Spouse May Not Be a Problem
Before you dive into divorce, make sure that you are not simply projecting the worry, fear, and boredom associated with living through a pandemic onto your marriage. Talk to a counselor. Ask yourself questions to isolate the issue, such as where your marriage is holding you back. Perhaps you can make other changes in your life – like changing jobs, scheduling weekly date nights, or taking walks together in nature. See if the changes help before you file divorce papers.
2. Your Spouse May Be a Big Problem
Conversely, it may be crystal clear that your spouse is the problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified toxicity in marriages and reports of domestic violence have increased. If you are being abused physically, emotionally, or financially, it is important to work on an exit strategy to keep you and your children safe. Lawyers, social workers, and women’s shelter staff are all working through the pandemic to help people in abusive situations.
3. Courts are Backlogged Due to COVID – Be Prepared to Wait
The family courts have reopened, but there is a backlog of cases. If you think your divorce might rely on the courts or mediation to make your decisions, know that it’s going to take some time. Get prepared and starting working with a lawyer now.
4. It’s Harder to Value Market-Based Assets During a Pandemic
The law views your marriage as a business, and dividing the marital assets is a major part of ending your marriage. The stock and money markets are choppy right now, which means valuing your retirement and other savings plans is more difficult. Typically, things are valued as of the day you officially separate, but they may not be paid out until much later. Talk to your family lawyer about asset division given the market volatility.
5. Work Is Less Stable During COVID-19
Many people have lost their jobs. In a divorce, support payments flow from the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse, and job loss complicates the issue. If you are the one making support payments, know that if you lose your job, you may have to continue to make payments until a court agrees to lower them. If you are the one receiving payments, know they can be cut back at any time. You may also want to include a COVID-19 clause in your separation agreement so it’s clear what happens if one party contracts the virus and can’t work.
6. Health Insurance Will Likely Change
Health insurance provided by your spouse’s workplace typically ends when you get divorced, so you will need to budget for coverage. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, finding new health insurance can be difficult and expensive. It’s important to talk about insurance coverage with your lawyer so you know exactly where you stand.
7. House Values May Be Difficult to Estimate
If you are selling or buying out the marital home, it may be harder to value your house right now. Some housing markets have softened, while others have skyrocketed. Contact a realtor to get a clear picture of your current home value.
8. Your Kids – Including Young Adults – May Be Home More
Some schools are back full-time, others have a hybrid model, and others are fully online. Additionally, some university-aged kids and young adults have returned to the nest. Take these factors into consideration before you divorce and downsize your residence.
9. Think Through Custody Arrangements and Childcare
If you have younger children and are separating, parenting time will be divided. This means kids may be splitting time between your home and your ex’s home. Are you comfortable with this idea? What if schools close again during the COVID-19 pandemic? Have you and your ex made childcare provisions? Talk to your attorney about the various scenarios that may apply.
10. Your Ability to Think Clearly May Be Compromised During COVID-19
Divorce involves a lot of decision-making regarding your children and your financial stability. It’s critical that you are capable of thinking clearly. If your thinking feels fuzzy due to worry, fear, or lack of sleep, recruit a thinking partner to help you work through your decisions.
With some extra planning and an awareness of the potential pitfalls, a divorce during a pandemic is possible. Your best course of action is to sit down with an experienced family law attorney who can provide counsel and guidance throughout the process.
About Jacquelyn S. Gonz, Attorney At Law
For 27 years, Jackie Gonz has guided clients through complex family law matters. Divorce is a difficult and emotional journey. Jackie’s goal is simple: help people move on with their life. To that end, she provides support and guidance while aggressively fighting for client’s best interest. If you are facing divorce and don’t know where to turn, Jackie offers help and hope. Give her a call: (573) 303-5353.