Written Exclusively for It's Over Easy by Samantha Rupp
According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 40 - 50% of Americans get divorced. Not only are the stay-at-home orders suspected to increase the rate of divorces this year—a recent independent survey conducted by relationship therapist Venus Nicolino, 31% of his respondents indicated that quarantine
had harmed their relationship—but it will also likely impact those who are already in the process. And with no end in sight for social distancing restrictions related to COVID-19, it seems fairly likely that many people will find themselves trying to navigate their divorce while also dealing with the fallout of the pandemic.
Divorce is already complicated enough, but now adding COVID-19 to the mix has made what you’re going through that much harder. From the inability to host in-person hearings to changes in income, the effects of the pandemic will likely affect nearly every aspect of your divorce. Whether you’re already in the process or want to initiate divorce proceedings, you will need to have an understanding of how different the experience will be while coronavirus spread is still a concern.
In this guide, we’ll cover some of the most notable ways in which COVID-19 could impact your divorce, so you can be better prepared for the challenges to come.
Job losses, severe reductions in income, necessary medical care, and other factors related to COVID-19 may have a significant impact on you or your spouse’s financial situation. If that is the case, this could also affect how financial matters are settled in your divorce, including the following aspects:
As you likely know, taxes have been impacted by COVID-19, which has been positive for most. With deadlines being pushed and collections halted, this can give you more time to settle debts and resolve matters such as spouse debt liability. On the other hand, if one spouse accumulates a large amount of debt due to losing their job during coronavirus, they will likely be the ones responsible for that debt, instead of it being split amongst the two of you.
Child Support & Alimony
How much you receive or pay in child support and alimony may also be adjusted in response to changes in income. If you can no longer afford your alimony or child support payments due to changes in your income, the court will likely side with you in updating the agreement to an amount that is more in line with what you can afford. Additionally, if you are in the beginning stages of working out a child support agreement, you may end up receiving much less than you originally anticipated if their financial situation has changed dramatically, given that it’s expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future.
A major part of divorce agreements is property division, which relies on proper asset valuation. However, due to COVID-19, this has become increasingly difficult—especially if business assets are involved. This is because many businesses have taken a major hit to profitability and have even had to declare bankruptcy or shut their doors due to the lack of revenue coming in. In some cases, the opposite may be true, where you or your spouse’s business has flourished due to the pandemic.
Either way, these temporary changes in revenue could result in an unfair valuation and division of property, so make sure to bring this up if you feel that a valuation prior to COVID-19 needs to be adjusted because it no longer reflects your business’s true value.
Additionally, for the sake of your kids, you might want to consider appointing yourself a conservator should anything happen to you. As typically your spouse would take over your assets and distribute them as they see appropriate, after divorce you need to make sure your assets will be passed on how you wish. A conservator not only can divvy out your assets, but also make medical and legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
With restrictions on public gatherings, there will also be procedural changes that may affect your divorce during this time. In many states, most courts are closed, and the few that are open are primarily operating on an emergency basis (handling cases that are urgent for safety reasons such as restraining orders and abuse).
In-person court hearings are not allowed in many parts of the country in compliance with social distancing requirements. This has resulted in a shift to online hearings or postponements, depending on the actions being taken within your county—your lawyer should know which applies to your case.
With this in mind, you may be more inclined to try to come to an agreement through mediation. If your ex spouse is resistant, the fact that trying to resolve issues in court could be drawn out for much longer due to COVID-19 restrictions may work in your favor to force their hand a bit.
Meetings with Your Attorney
Similarly to your court hearings (if they aren’t postponed), meetings with your lawyer will most likely be held via phone or video conference. Don’t let this deter you from moving forward, you can still get a lot done without meeting in person. When trying to navigate these changes, it’s important to consult your lawyer to determine how each of these factors could impact the negotiations and outcome of your divorce proceedings. They will be able to help walk you through your options and make the best decisions
With these changes in mind, it’s important to note that the divorce process will likely be slowed down altogether. Even as more courts open back up, there will be a large number of divorce filings and other cases will be on their list, so it is highly likely that timelines will be inflated significantly. Of course, this depends on where you live and how busy your local court is, but it would be wise to consider the ramifications delays in your divorce could have on other aspects of your life as it is likely you will be affected.
While delays in your case may not be ideal, they may be inevitable due to the pandemic and you’ll need to work with your lawyer to determine the next steps you’re going to take.
Your Next Steps
While there could be a significant impact on your divorce proceedings, it is also important to keep in perspective that you can still make progress. Fortunately with all the technology available to us, you can still attend virtual meetings, and your lawyer can send any documents that require signing and they can be sent back digitally as well, so this aspect should not be held up.
Another positive is that, for many going through divorce, the goal is to avoid court altogether, and to be able to settle negotiations with mediation—which should be fairly straightforward, even during coronavirus because it can all be done virtually. Despite the challenges COVID-19 presents to those who want a divorce, you’re not stuck waiting it out.
About the Author
Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and is the managing editor for 365businesstips.com. She lives in San Diego, California and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and traveling.