Deciding to divorce is never easy. Deciding to divorce during COVID-19 is even more challenging. Two years ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality, we witnessed myriad disruptions to daily life that we’d never previously experienced. Court proceedings slowed down or were put on hold for weeks or months. Attorney offices moved to full-virtual client service. Divorce filings increased. Already fragile marriages experienced greater emotional, financial, or behavioral fissures that often led to couples deciding to dissolve their unions.
We don’t know how long this pandemic time may last, but I do have insights into what can help a divorcing couple in times like these. As a family law attorney, I like to share my knowledge with people in hopes that they can benefit from what I see or experience through the practice of law.
Here's What You Should Know About Divorce During COVID-19
1. Consider the Timing
Consider the timing of the divorce filing and consider the relative circumstances of your well-being and community. During the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic health outbreaks, many courts were forced to slow down case proceedings. Amazingly, most courts remained open and devised ways to work virtually. In some cases, the slowdowns were frustrating to couples using the traditional litigated approach, and in other instances, especially for those clients using collaborative divorce process or mediation, we witnessed cases moving more quickly than they had historically thanks to the virtual options which saved time and court fees. Should you, or someone you care for, be contemplating divorce, keep in mind that the timelines that would have been typical pre-pandemic may no longer be applicable.
2. Consider Your Children's School Schedules
If you have minor children, consider their school schedules and how they might be impacted by the pandemic. This is a matter that is specific to each District or school, but school schedules can now vary dramatically, and divorcing couples need to consider this when moving through the phases of divorce during COVID-19.
3. Parenting Time Flexibility
Parenting time, the schedule of how parents spend time with minor children, is also impacted by the pandemic. Whether due to quarantine requirements or the presence of illness, parenting time has had to become flexible, and couples have had to “expect the unexpected." Divorced parents typically like to have a clearly defined parenting time schedule, however during these pandemic years it has often been necessary to change the schedules and allow for flexibility.
4. Manage Your Anxiety
People’s anxiety set points have shifted. Divorcing couples need to pay careful attention to their anxiety levels as well as those of their minor children. I always ask my clients to ensure they have a well-defined support system. Each spouse should have access to excellent mental health support, friends, and family who can offer support during times of increased stress or anxiety. Seek help if anxiety becomes overwhelming or unmanageable.
5. Be Prepared for Unexpected Quarantines
Nobody wants to quarantine, especially divorcing couples. This pandemic has caused people to have to hunker down and has demanded a level of patience for ourselves and for others that has been trying.
If you're going through divorce during COVID-19, I understand the challenges that you face. The truth is, we don’t know how long this pandemic will last, or what modifications to daily life we will have to make to adjust to the various ebbs and flows of public health. But we can take care of ourselves and our children even during a divorce. My job is to offer the best legal counsel I can, and to care for my clients. If I have learned anything in my professional life, it is to expect the unexpected. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has been harsh to everyone, there are ways to manage during this time.