While the coronavirus pandemic has died down dramatically in most of the United States, there have still been some spikes here and there. In Florida, there are still thousands of new cases every week.
It is clear that COVID has affected pretty much every part of our lives, from health to relationships to school to grocery shopping to legal affairs. In a way, some of these are connected. For example, if the coronavirus has affected your marriage, then it has probably led to health problems (physical or mental). It might have also led to legal affairs, in that you and your spouse are now considering divorce (or maybe already going through the process).
Divorce is complicated enough in normal times, with no pandemic. The pandemic has resulted in virtual court hearings as well as delays, which can affect the timing of your divorce. However, remote court hearings have helped in some ways, making divorces more convenient (no trips to the courthouse) and saving money in the process.
It is a good idea to work with your lawyer to understand how the divorce process may change in the face of COVID. Here are some things you should be aware of.
Many people forget that a divorce is a lawsuit, and as such, the legal system needs to be functioning properly in order for your divorce to get finalized in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to delays in courts across the country. There is a backlog because, well, you are not the only one getting divorced. The struggles of the pandemic have caused many couples to end their marriages.
The rise of divorce cases, combined with health and safety measures, have led to delays. It has also forced courts to install new procedures and timelines for processes such as filing motions and petitions, scheduling hearings and trials, and determining how and when divorces can get finalized. Fortunately, many courts have taken advantage of technology to implement new ways to conduct court proceedings, such as e-filing documents and allowing divorcing couples to attend court remotely via Zoom and other video conferencing tools.
Keep in mind that the coronavirus can also affect your separation plans. While there is no waiting period required in Florida, some couples do prefer to separate before filing for divorce. This separation gives couples time to reflect on their decision and determine whether or not their marriage can be saved. However, finding suitable housing — or anything that is affordable, for that matter —can be a huge challenge. This is especially true in the current out-of-control housing market.
Finances are tricky right now. The stock market has been up and down since 2020, which can make it hard to know the true value of your investments and other assets. Plus, the economy is causing prices to rise at the gas pumps and grocery stores.
Because of these issues, you may be low on cash, so having enough cash to pay bills may be an issue. Plus, in a divorce, you may lose access to health insurance (if you get it through a spouse), so having money to pay for it is also something to think about.
Work with a financial planner to see what you can to invest your money and achieve growth. See how you can soften your blow from this economic crisis. The best thing you can do is work with your spouse to maximize your family’s household income. The more money you have to split, the better. Minimizing legal fees can also be helpful.
What is the status of your job? Many people got laid off from their jobs at the start of the pandemic, but job openings have been on the rise in 2022. Others have been working from home throughout the pandemic and may be returning to the office soon. If you have a contract job, then it is possible your job could end at any time.
If you or your spouse got laid off during the pandemic, and do not have a job lined up, then that will affect your divorce to some degree. Obviously, it will impact finances and having cash flow to pay bills. It could impact the division of assets as well as alimony payments. The higher wage earner could be forced to pay spousal support for a longer period of time.
In any case, it is best not to rely on alimony for an extended period of time. Having income coming in and being self-sufficient financially will help you out the most in the long run.
Most schools are back in session for in-person instruction, so your children should be back to school in the same environment as it was pre-COVID. Therefore, custody should not be affected too much. Parents should not have to be at home to deal with distance learning.
If your child’s school is an exception, though, then you and your ex will have to work together to ensure that your child’s education is fully supported. You and the other parent will have to figure out workarounds, such as schedule changes and remote work.
Seek Legal Help
The pandemic is still impacting divorces across the nation, even though coronavirus cases and deaths are on the decline. Some effects may be good; others may be bad.
Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you understand the rules involved and help you get divorced as quickly and easily as possible. To schedule a consultation with our office, call (954) 398-5712 or fill out the online form.