Whether you are considering a divorce or in the initial stages, the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will likely add obstacles to an already tense and stressful process. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a couple cannot get a divorce. However, finding resolution may take longer than expected and involve bypassing the traditional court system.
Accept a Delayed Timeline
Due to the virus, many state courts have either closed or have prohibited public access and only operate on an emergency basis. That means some non-emergency proceedings, such as new divorce cases or motions to reduce support payments, are being postponed. Whether or not your divorce will be delayed will depend on the current rules and closures in the city, county, or state where you reside. The process may also take longer if your or your spouse’s attorney is ill or unable to work as quickly from home.
Some courts now allow documents to be filed electronically and are holding certain court sessions with a judge via video conference. On the other hand, if each spouse can come to an agreement on all divorce-related issues, a judge may be willing to sign a divorce order and there may be no need to attend court at all.
Preparing for Your Case
First, consult with an experienced divorce attorney. Even during the pandemic, an attorney can assist you by phone, email, or video conferencing. This is a very important step, as they can explain the legal options available to you, as well as guide you through the process of developing a strategy to meet your goals and priorities.
Gather information. Now is a perfect time to gather any type of documentation you have regarding assets and debts, as well as information on spending habits. Doing so can help you assess which divorce process to pursue and predict how much you need to be financially secure when the divorce is finalized. When it comes to budgeting and resolving financial issues, working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) can be a powerful tool.
Utilize benefits available by the CARES Act. For example, there are small business loan options and withdrawals can be made from retirement accounts penalty free.
Use discernment. If you have children, keep their best interests in mind regarding custody and parenting time while stay-at-home orders are in place. Individual accommodations and deviations from your custody order or agreement may be necessary to ensure there aren’t any unnecessary risks of exposure to the virus. Moreover, keep in mind whether or not you would look like a reasonable parent when in front of a judge.
Pursuing Alternatives to Divorce
Litigation is not the only option when it comes to divorcing a spouse. There are alternatives to court action, known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), that are financially friendly and tend to be a more amicable way to split up. Some popular forms of ADR, include:
Couples have the option of turning to attorney-assisted mediation for settling disputes. It can be conducted virtually, and puts the responsibility on the parties to negotiate and figure out solutions to their issues. If the couple can come to an understanding on marital property, child custody, support, etc., then an attorney or mediator can draw up a divorce settlement agreement. Once signed, it is a binding contract that each spouse is obligated to follow. The document can then be submitted to a judge, who can incorporate it into the final divorce decree so that it becomes a binding court order.
Arbitration involves a neutral third party, called an arbitrator, who considers the evidence and arguments presented by each side and makes the final decision. Sometimes arbitration is voluntary, while some courts require it prior to trying the case. The parties can select the arbitrator, and the proceedings can be kept confidential, which typically results in a better outcome than a jury trial.
Our Spokane Family Law Attorneys are Here for You
Dissolving a marriage can be one of the toughest events in your life. In the midst of a pandemic, it can be even more diffucult. Our attorneys at Twyford Law Office remain committed to delivering the same high standard of effective legal representation for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation that can be conducted by phone or video conferencing.