If you’re considering filing for divorce during COVID-19, you may face some complications. Many people have lost their jobs, stock markets have fluctuated erratically, and nobody knows what to expect anymore. But what does that mean for you if you have reached the breaking point in your marriage? Can you get divorced? If so, how should you go about it? The short answer is yes. You can get divorced in the midst of the public health crisis, but getting through the process is going to be a challenge.
Filing for Divorce During COVID-19
Married Life: Coronavirus Edition
When the COVID-19 shutdowns began in March of this year, many families looked forward to spending quality time together. From home schooling, to working from home, to following stay-at-home orders, many families may be struggling. Undoubtedly, many couples benefited tremendously from the extra time together. It is equally certain that the lockdown pushed other couples to the brink of divorce.
Throughout the country, things are slowly starting to open back up again. It is impossible to guess when things will get back to normal, or if they ever will. In the meantime, businesses and public services are now open and available in most parts of the country. This includes courthouses where divorce cases are filed, processed, and heard.
Considering Your Divorce Options
Once you have decided that you want to pursue a divorce, you will need to determine your plan for getting through the process. You have a variety of options for doing so, including:
- Pro se divorce: A pro se divorce is a divorce that does not involve any lawyers. Each party represents themselves, and they file all of the necessary paperwork on their own. If your situation is extremely simple, a pro se divorce might work for you, but it is usually a good idea to at least consult with an attorney.
- Attorney-to-attorney divorce: Sometimes referred to as direct negotiations, an attorney-to-attorney divorce is a more traditional route. Your attorney will communicate with your spouse’s attorney to hammer out the details of your divorce settlement. In the meantime, you and your spouse are generally discouraged from talking about the issues of your divorce with one another.
- Divorce mediation: In mediation, you and your spouse will work with a neutral third party to guide your discussions. Lawyers may or may not be involved, at your discretion. Many divorce mediators are also attorneys, so they can offer suggestions about how to make your agreement legally sound.
- Collaborative divorce: Many divorce lawyers are specially trained and certified to work within the collaborative divorce process. In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse will each have an attorney, but other professionals and experts may comprise the rest of your divorce team, and you will all work cooperatively to reach a divorce settlement. Your team may include a financial analyst, divorce coach, child development specialist, mental health professional, and anyone else whose input could be helpful.
- Litigation: If all else fails, you and your attorney can take your case in front of a judge to resolve your outstanding issues.
The right choice for your situation will depend on a number of factors, including how well you and your spouse can work together. Most attorneys, mediators, and other professionals will be willing to hold meetings and negotiation sessions on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. The same is true for most court hearings and required appearances.
Navigating the New Normal
As if the process of divorce wasn’t hard enough, the social distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are going to have an effect on your divorce, sometimes in ways you might not have thought about. For example, are you thinking about moving out of your home? Keep in mind that many property owners and rental agencies are only doing limited in-person showings. It might be several weeks before you are able to see the inside of a prospective new home. Similarly, your plans regarding your children are likely to be affected as well, with many school districts opting for virtual learning for the upcoming year.
The divorce process itself will also have additional challenges thanks to the coronavirus. Most of the necessary communication and meetings can be handled through video conferencing, but that means having a place in your house that is suitable for participating in them. In many households, people are still spending most of their time at home. As a result, getting the privacy you need for an uninterrupted divorce negotiation conference could prove to be tough—especially if you have small children.
Finding the Help You Need
There are going to be many variables and issues to address during your divorce, but the good news is that you do not need to manage them on your own. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to speak with a qualified divorce attorney before you make any decisions about how to proceed. Your lawyer will help you understand the divorce process and how to overcome some of the most common challenges. Now, more than ever, an experienced lawyer can be crucial in getting the favorable outcome you deserve.
Tricia D. Goostree knew she wanted to be an attorney when she was 10 years old. After being accepted to the John Marshall Law School with a Dean’s Scholarship, Tricia added excellent writing skills to her love of working in the courtroom. Tricia is the founder of the Goostree Law Group, P.C. in St. Charles, Illinois. www.familydivorcelaw.com