Before coronavirus, divorce was complicated, and more often than not difficult and emotion filled. Uncertainty was the norm, as everyone believed their fates resided with the decision of a judge and an aggressive attorney rather than what was actual law. You worried if you’d get a fair shake or even make it at the end of it all.
The current health crisis is similar to what you would deal with in divorce: uncertainty and confusion. No one really knows what is really happening and how to deal with it. One moment you’re told it’s nothing more than the flu, and the next you’re on lockdown. Some people are responding to the crisis by hoarding and over preparation. Other people are more lax and are doing what they’re told to do without panicking. And then there are the under responders who are being defiant because uncertainty means things are out of their control.
As hoarding and defiance is detrimental to curbing a virus, they are also detrimental during divorce. Are you the one who wants or needs everything just to spite your spouse? Or does the fear of not knowing if you’ll be OK turn you into someone who is always confrontational and hard to negotiate with?
The pandemic has taught us through our hoarding and defiance that some things will never work for the benefit of everyone in the long term. Right now our best course of action is to rethink our strategy moving forward.
Here’s How Divorce During Coronavirus Will Affect You
This virus has affected our every day lives emotionally and economically, possibly forever. We all have to recognize that the crisis is a crisis for everyone and that everyone is under extreme pressure.
So right now how will the coronavirus affect your divorce? No one really knows because we are in unchartered territory and it’s a learning curve for all of us. What we do know is that it is affecting all of us uniformly, and how you deal with a change in circumstance is paramount.
What Can You Expect?
- Court will be delayed which means your divorce will be delayed. Cases that were scheduled have been rescheduled for another date, assuming the pandemic is under control.
- All financial documents will need to be updated. As more employers lay off their employees, and businesses close, this means less or no income for the household.
- If you own a home a new appraisal will be necessary as sales have stalled for now. Uncertainty in the job market will have an impact on the sales price of your home as compared to a year ago as buyers put the brakes on purchasing.
- If you already have a settlement agreement it will more than likely need to revised based on the new situation at hand. Monthly incomes may have decreased, and the value of your 401K may have declined substantially. There are people who are watching their stock values decline, or are selling in order to retain some value.
- More than likely the only thing you can discuss, if at all, is the timeshare of the children. You should address every possible scenario including the situation we all face today. Who will take the children if there is a quarantine order? What about exchanges if schools and most of the businesses are closed?
It is never a good idea to make hurried decisions just to be divorced. Now is the time to pause before settling financial issues until you have more concrete information to move forward.
What Can You Do Right Now?
You won’t be able to get to the bulk of the issues right now but you can still work on your divorce by video conferencing with your attorney and other divorce professionals such as a divorce coach, financial analyst, and accountant. Now is the time to gather information in preparation for what will inevitably come down the line.
Do not start habits that will affect you down the road such as online shopping. We are living in economic uncertainty, and it’s time to start budgeting for your current needs, as well as doing a bare bones budget which covers only the essentials.
Violating Current Custody Orders
In divorce, some will use this crisis to violate court orders and take advantage of the chaos. The courts are currently operating only for emergency issues, so how do you stop your ex from violating custody orders based on what they believe to be ‘in the best interest of your children?’
At the present time, there isn’t much you can do, but you should be documenting everything. Document emails and text messages and allow the courts to handle it when it is back in session. It is without a doubt that many future cases will involve willful violations of court orders. However, it will be up to the judge to determine if it was indeed deliberate or if it actually benefitted the child.
It is never a good idea to violate the orders that are in place unless that violation is justified, such as in cases of abuse. Now is not the time to take advantage of the current crisis by taking the law into your own hands. We are all in this together and the children need both parents now more than ever.
What to Do If You Are Sharing the Same Home as Your Soon to Be Ex
If you are still sharing the same home while in the middle of your divorce you have to make your emotional well being front and center in your life. Focusing only on what the other is doing while under lockdown is not a good idea. There are certain things you can do to take the focus off them and onto you, such as:
- Participate in mindfulness techniques by living in the moment, and breathing exercises.
- Go for a social distancing walk or if you have a garden, do some gardening. There are ‘feel good’ perks in being outdoors.
- Bake goodies, the smell alone will pick you up.
- Read self help books. There are many books out there and right now some are free to read.
- Take up the hobby you dropped many years ago because life got so busy.
- Take time away from social media and indulge in a good book.
- Start budgeting, times are going to change and your spending habits will have to change along with the times. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
- Practice what you will need sooner or later, practice patience, and practice the art of what is within your control and what is not.
How we interact with others, and how we behave in certain situations allows us to see ourselves in times of stress, and helps us re-evaluate our responses. The time is now to prepare for the future while living today.
If You Have Children and Share the Same Home as Your Ex
With both of you at home at the same time this can be a challenge but manageable. In addition to the items listed above make sure you have dedicated ‘kid time’ and stick to it. If you are amicable, you can both sit down and devise a schedule that you both adhere to.
You may have to change your work hours if you’re working from home, but flexibility and cooperation is the key to making this work. You can tweak the schedule you both come up with based on what works best for everyone. Having this in place will help both of you, and the children, so that chaos does not ensue, for example, who is making breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
It is important that you put your egos aside and have peace in your household during this time. The last thing children need is uncertainty outside of the home and chaos inside the home. Put the children first at all times no matter what.
This pandemic is showing us what truly matters. People are finding that their old hobbies are their new dreams. Families are spending more time together technology-free, people now know who their neighbors are, and people are beginning to care not only about what is in their bank accounts, but if there is enough in their bank accounts.
Never before has everyone thought of the elderly as more than just the elderly. Never before have we spent so much time in our homes and not in our cars, and never before have our skies been so clear.
Sometimes it takes disruption to free you from what ‘was’ in preparation of what is to come.
Stay safe and for now, stay home!