Coronavirus has effected divorce proceedings. What are the changes and how can I protect myself?
Updated: Jun 13, 2020
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. Coronavirus is at the top of the list of things that can upend the best laid plans. The coronavirus has effected how your divorce will proceed. Specifically, many courthouses are closed except for emergencies. This may delay your divorce, applications for temporary support and custody and modifications to exsisting orders.
However, there are actions you can take to protect and prepare yourself. We will discuss these in depth but here are some ideas of what you can control and how you can prepare for the rest.
Discuss with your lawyer how your recent settlement proposal will be affected. Most settlement proposals will likely need to be re-negotiated. Find out if ADR is right for your case.
Start updating your financial documents. Many things may have changed since the beginning of COVID-19 like job loss, drops in stocks and housing changes.
Understand the impact of the virus on your divorce timeline.
Ask your attorney how this will affect your legal fees and bill.
Expect that home appraisals and business valuations will likely need to be revalued.
Discuss how you will protect the health and safety of your children and make a plan you can both agree on.
Evaluate how you will pay for living expenses.
Maximize the stability for yourself and your children by revisiting your parenting plan.
Speak to a real estate professional about your plan and timeline to sell your house.
Allow yourself to seek the help you need to get through this stressful time. Give yourself patience and grace with your feelings.
Let's look at some specific questions and answers.
How might my actual divorce be affected?
As with all lawsuits, the functioning of the court system controls the time frame of when your divorce will become final. Court systems across the country are balancing the needs of moving cases along with the health and safety of their staff, the parties and the attorneys. Technology has offered many different options to do this safely and effectively. For example, Larimer County is using virtual hearings and allows documents to be e-filed. Divorcing individuals can attend court via video conference with the judge.
ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) has become a potential solution to courthouse closures and the unavoidable backlog that is sure to follow once courthouses reopen. Divorces can move forward by using ADR via video confrencing to safely mediate or arbitrate termporary issues that may arise such as parenting plans, temporary support and discovery compliance. You can finalize your entire case by reaching a global settlement in mediation.
Using collaborative law process we can execute final agreements with the help of a team of professionals who specialize in children's issues, law and financial issues.
Call us today to discuss how the rules affecting your jurisdiction impact your case, what delays you may be facing and and whether your timeline has been affected. Consider whether ADR may work for your family's unique issues. This is a good time to assess how you can minimize professional fees.
What if I lose my job and experience trouble paying the bills?
Layoffs and cut backs are inevitable in the job market right now. While it is impossible to forecast whether you or your spouse will lose a job or experience a dramatic change in income, you can begin to assess how this might affect temporary support payments and complicate negotiations. Issues like health insurance or short term cash flow shortages may suddenly become critical. If you or your spouse's income has significantly changed, consult your attorney about whether to file something with the court.
If possible, work with your spouse on ideas to minimize your legal fees. One way to do that is to file jointly if possible. This may be the time to look into government financial relief and understand your options. Our cross disciplinary team can explain unemployment, pandemic unemployment, Families First Corona Virus Response Act Leave and loan options under the CARES Act.
Should I sell the house like we planned?
The housing market is much harder to predict during the pandemic. It is difficult to determine what the long term impact will be after the crisis passes. Deciding to keep the house or sell is a complex decision even in the best of times. In addition to factoring the emotional ties of a potential move, you have to balance the tax implications and costs to sell and relocate with the monthly cost to keep up the house, pay utilities and maintain it's upkeep. While record low mortgages rates might entice some buyers, be prepared for it to take longer to sell.
Consult with an experienced realtor like Matthew Fugate at Home Smart Realty Group https://homesmart.com/real-estate-agent/colorado/fortcollins/38946-matthew-fugate/Welcome and be prepared to rethink your decisions if that is what makes sense. Professional realtors like Matthew understand necessary vs. unnecessary investments to make your house sells such as upgrading photos and staging your house to display optimal features. Matthew uses drone enabled photography to give the buyer a view of the neighborhood and surrounding areas from the comfort of their computer. Colorado considers realtors to be essential service providers and allowing showings pursuant to safety guidelines.
If you decide to keep your house, work with your spouse and attorney to see if you can refinance at a lower rate with a Certified Divorce Lending Professional https://www.divorcemortgagetraining.com/.
What can I do to help our children during this time?
You are probably already struggling with kids being home all day and the new home schooling parents are takingon. The lack of school and social activities have a ripple effect on established parenting arrangements and it is likely you are dealing with unforeseen changes to their schedule. If possible, work with your spouse to create the best schedule for your child's well being. Most jurisdictions have ordered that the parties' regular parenting time schedule shall continue and school closures do not affect parenting time. However, parents are allowed to alter the schedule by agreement and now is a critical time to try to work together and work things out as co-parents. Not only does this save you legal fees but you will always be co-parenting and doing what is in child's best interest is ultimately in your best interest.
Put your kids and your own well being at a higher priority than expressing your stress and anger to your spouse. Be kind and gentle with yourself and don't expect your child's schedule to flow perfectly right now. Do the best you can and find the serenity to accept the things in life you cannot control.
As with all things, this too shall pass. We can work with you to control the things you can in terms of planning for extended timelines on financial concerns. Call us today for a free consultation.