Filing for a divorce can be a complicated situation, not just legally and personally but also financially. The COVID-19 outbreak has had negative consequences for families struggling with job loss and damaged relationships. The stresses of an uncertain financial future can further damage an already delicate relationship. If you’re thinking about filing for a divorce during the pandemic, there are a few aspects that you should consider before making your final decision. A job loss and accumulation of debt could have a significant impact on the outcome of your divorce.
How COVID-19 Can Impact the Outcome of Your Divorce
Delays Caused By COVID-19
As a response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to protect staff and the public, courts across the country have temporarily closed their doors. Many of them are holding online hearings and in some cases, in-person hearings have been postponed. Depending on the state where you will file for divorce, your hearing may be held through a video call or will be scheduled after the courts open. A lawyer will be able to inform you about your court’s current working status and if an online filing and remote hearing is available for your divorce case. Divorce attorney Stephen Plog suggests that Alternative Dispute Resolutions will be the best way to reach an agreement for a divorce during the Coronavirus pandemic. An ADR does not require a trial or courtroom and may be held remotely through a video conference call. Due to the pandemic, you should be prepared for delays in your case and plan accordingly.
Impact of a Job Loss on a Divorce
Millions of people across the world and in the U.S. have lost their job or had to close their businesses permanently. Even as states start to reopen and the economy is slowly bouncing back to pre-pandemic status, there are still many people who will not be able to go back to their jobs. If you are considering filing for divorce during the pandemic, consider that a job loss can affect the assets and debts involved in a divorce. A job loss can lead to couples incurring a substantial amount of debt through credit cards, falling behind on car and mortgage payments, rent, utilities, and other expenses. A couple struggling financially may even lose their family home. If this is your situation you may reconsider getting a divorce during this economically difficult time. Normally during a divorce, one side will keep the family home while the other receives fewer debts in return. However, due to the economic downturn, the value of your home may have plummeted, and the debts incurred during the pandemic will also have to be divided between both parties. Just because your spouse lost their job and incurred debt, doesn’t mean that you are free from repaying it if you get a divorce, especially if this debt was used to pay for family expenses such as a mortgage on your family home.
Division of Debt in a Divorce
Depending on the state where you file for divorce, property and debt division laws vary. In an equitable division state, the court will allocate assets and debt to each party depending on what is fair. This means that assets and debts will not be divided equally 50/50 between the parties. For example, if a party suffered a job loss and incurred significant debt for their car payment, then this spouse will be allocated a higher amount of debt compared to the other. Other aspects that will be analyzed include how much each spouse contributed in assets during the marriage and the length of the marriage. An attorney will be able to look at your finances and debts incurred during the pandemic to determine how the courts will rule in favor of debt and property division during the divorce.
Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property States
Equitable distribution is a method of dividing assets during a divorce. Depending on the state you live in and where you will file for divorce it will follow equitable distribution or community property laws. Community property states include California, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In a community property state, all assets acquired during and before the marriage can be divided during the divorce. All other states follow an equitable distribution method of dividing property, this means that property will be divided fairly and not equally between the parties.
Consulting with a relationship expert and a divorce lawyer will help you make an informed decision about your situation. Consider the personal and financial aspects of divorce during these uncertain times and review every option available that will make you and your family most comfortable.