Perhaps your marriage had been effectively over prior to the pandemic, or possibly going through the pandemic brought you to the realization your marriage should end. In either scenario, you feel that you want to proceed with a divorce. Should you, given the pandemic?
To answer that question, we need to look at the unique factors at play during the pandemic.
First, the pandemic may have brought sudden financial changes to you and your family. One spouse may have been furloughed or another fired. Investment accounts may have fallen due to the drop in the market. All of these financial considerations may impact whether to get a divorce now. If you have lost work and do not anticipate returning to work at the same salary at any time in the near future, now would be an advantageous time to file for divorce, as it would potentially result in lower child and spousal support payments. Conversely, if you require support from a spouse with a job change, this time may not seem ideal. You may think you want to wait until the job prospects improve. On the other hand, it might make more sense to jump now while you can argue the spouse’s recent job history with less of a paper trail during the pandemic. As you can see, each person’s situation will be unique and it will require a good deal of thinking through your scenarios with an attorney to decide on timing.
Similarly, asset issues could influence whether to divorce now. Would the sale of your marital residence now pose a real difficulty in finding new housing? If you have lost investment income, would that limit your ability to pay for a divorce? Have you incurred recent debt in the pandemic that you do not want to share post-divorce? Again, all very individualized questions you need to address.
Second, can you actually afford to divorce? You will need to draw up a budget and decide what you could sustain on your own income, what you could anticipate in receiving or paying in support, and the overall stress on your bottom line. Perhaps the emotional cost outweighs the financial; again, you would need to decide.
Third, the pandemic has made custody issues more complicated. What would a schedule look like if certain restrictions on interactions remain? You may need a parenting plan that accounts for pandemic-specific issues, including travel, education, and work, particularly if a parent or household member is vulnerable to the virus.
Finally, timing. If you want the process to move along more quickly, you will need to think of alternatives to litigation, as the courts have yet to fully open and have quite a backlog. It is hard to tell at the moment how much longer the average case will take through litigation, but it will be longer. By contrast, a case worked out through mediation or otherwise settled could move along quickly because it would not need much in-court time.
Many of the same considerations one would consider for getting a divorce apply now as much as ever, but the volatility and uncertainty in certain areas created by the pandemic make the process a bit more complicated. Understanding how this will play out in your particular case with your particular expectations and goals will be what you need to discuss with your attorney.
If you have questions about divorce during a pandemic, contact us – we can help.