COVID-19 has affected everything as we know it, even domestic relationships. Since the start of the pandemic, law offices are seeing more divorce inquiries and courthouses are becoming overcrowded with backlogged proceedings. But why are people deciding to split while we’re in the middle of a global health crisis?
There are many possible reasons for the uptick in divorce cases in the pandemic, including increased conflict (mainly due to lockdown), financial troubles, and the exacerbation of old problems that were already present before the pandemic. Often, there isn’t a singular cause of divorce, but instead a myriad of accumulated problems. There are a lot of other factors that come into play, such as the distribution of housework, mental health problems (often exacerbated by the pandemic), and animosity towards each other because there is nothing else to release stress onto.
For financial and safety reasons, it is ideal to wait until the pandemic is over to push through with your divorce. But if this is not an option, be sure to know how COVID-19 can affect your divorce when you decide to go through with it:
Delays in courthouse proceedings
Courthouses closed down during the early weeks of the pandemic, adding months’ worth of delays on pending cases. Today, courthouses may have not yet been able to catch up with the backlog of cases due to the sheer number and the fact that they’re operating at limited capacity. Consider this, you may be looking at an extended waiting time if you decide to apply for divorce in the middle of the pandemic–unless, of course, if your case is an emergency (relief from abuse, termination of parental rights, etc.)
If you can’t wait that long to get your divorce over and done with, consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques like mediation or arbitration. These methods are conducted out-of-court in the presence of a neutral third party, and often proceed faster than court separations. Talk with your partner about the possibility of going through alternative dispute resolution instead of taking the divorce to court. Not only will ADR help you proceed with your divorce faster, but it’s also a great way to settle things amicably.
Changes to your will
As with any other major life event, a divorce entails changes to your will. That said, you will have to get a will and probate attorney to make the necessary modifications following your divorce. Depending on where you live, getting an attorney may be more challenging because of pandemic restrictions. Estate planning attorneys are in high demand amidst this crisis where a lot of people are afraid of dying prematurely, and thus decide to settle their estate now.
Challenges in co-parenting
The pandemic poses unique challenges for co-parents, including having to transfer custody in a safe way and handle online classes while schools remain closed. These challenges seem far off in the future if you haven’t even started the process of divorce yet, but it’s definitely something that you have to think about for your children’s sake and your own.
The pandemic in and of itself is a major cause of stress, anxiety, and depression. Add that on top of the challenges of divorce, and you will most likely be experiencing a whirlwind of negative emotions all at once. Think about how the divorce will affect you and your family’s mental health. Do you have enough support to deal with what’s in store? Do your children have the emotional and mental capacity to go through the separation on top of what’s already happening? Are you mentally ready to experience what is likely one of the most painful moments in your life?
If the answer is ‘no’, it might be better to find an alternative to divorce until the pandemic has died down. For instance, you or your spouse can stay in separate houses for the time being to minimize conflict in front of the children.
Even without the pandemic, finances are one of the most difficult aspects of divorce to deal with. Separation of assets, changes in insurance, child support, and spousal support are the main financial burdens of divorce. And if you’ve experienced a loss or reduction of income because of the pandemic, a divorce may very well cripple you financially.
This article does not aim to discourage you from divorce, but rather educate you about what may be in store down the road, considering that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. While you do your own research, it’s a good idea to consult with a divorce lawyer that can answer any specific questions that you may have.