As lockdowns continue and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic rages on, you may be wondering if you can still file for divorce. The answer is yes. Most processes and professionals associated with divorce cases have adapted to make the process possible for couples who wish to separate. Although many of New York’s courthouses are closed, you can still consult an attorney and begin the process of divorce – and some courts have even found new ways to hold virtual hearings.
Further, options like uncontested divorce and collaborative divorce are becoming more popular than ever. If you and your spouse agree on the best way to end your marriage, you can avoid litigation and dodge the effects of court closures and delays. Still, there are many factors to consider, including:
- Financial strain
- Health and safety
- Your children (if you have them)
If your marriage was fragile when you went into the pandemic, it may not survive stay-at-home orders, job loss, and other stressors – and this is nothing to be ashamed of. At the same time, many people cling to the stability of a relationship during uncertain times, so the pandemic may not be the best time to initiate a divorce.
Maybe you’re not sure whether you want to get divorced – this is okay, too! Speaking to a divorce attorney can help you understand your legal options so you can make the right choice.
Unfortunately, going into your divorce attorney’s office may not be possible right now, nor doing your research about divorce at a coffee shop down the street. If you do not want your spouse to know you’re considering divorce, you may have a hard time maintaining your privacy.
Some clients set up internet hot spots and complete their consultations from their cars or simply step outside for their phone calls. Privacy is definitely hard to find when everyone is at home, but if you want to talk to an attorney, a therapist, or a real estate agent, you can find ways to do so.
When seeking a divorce, you should always consider your finances – especially if you’re getting divorced during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you or your spouse were laid off during the pandemic, this could affect your divorce. Similarly, you will want to ensure you have enough financial resources to make it through the divorce process and the aftermath. Consider your assets (including retirement accounts) and debts, as well as possible child support and spousal support payments.
Divorce often splits a two-income household into a single-income household, so you should also make sure you have enough money to take care of your bills and daily living expenses.
Before filing for divorce, think about where you will live during and after the legal process. Some people want their spouses out of the house as soon as they receive divorce papers, while others continue living with their spouse until the divorce is finalized.
Divorcing couples may be more likely to live together because of the COVID-19 crisis, but you will need to assess whether this is possible for you and your spouse. If not, you should have a place to go while your divorce is underway.
Additionally, you will need to think about what to do with the family home, which is typically the largest asset married couples share. Who will keep the family home? Is now a good time to sell and split the proceeds? Will you buy a new house before the divorce is finalized? Do you have any vacation properties to consider?
Finding a new place to live or entering the real estate market may be difficult during this time, so you should speak to an attorney and start planning ahead before you file for divorce.
Health and Safety
No matter what, prioritize health and safety for you, your spouse, and your children (if you have them), and keep in mind that this includes your mental health, as well. You may want to see a therapist – alone or with your spouse – before initiating a divorce, and you should avoid in-person proceedings if anyone in your house has a higher risk of severe infection.
If your spouse is abusive, do not wait to file for divorce. Seek the help you need to leave the situation, calling 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1.800.799.7233) if necessary. Once you are safe, consult an attorney to get an order of protection and proceed with your divorce.
Child custody and support will undoubtedly be some of the most complicated decisions you and your spouse make during a COVID-19-era divorce. If your child is learning at home, you will need to figure out how to split this responsibility and how the child should travel from home to home during lockdowns. This on top of all the other plans you will need to make for co-parenting during the divorce.
Some parents do not want to upend their kids’ lives once again during this already turbulent time, but the happier you and your spouse are, the happier your kids will be.
If the marriage isn’t working, your child will sense this, and you should not wait to do what’s best for you and your children.
How to Get Started
Your first step will be the same during the COVID-19 pandemic as it would be at any other time – simply talk to an experienced divorce attorney. At Family First Legal Group, we offer free case evaluations via phone or various online platforms to accommodate you during New York’s stay-at-home orders.
Call us at (914) 752-5333 or contact us online for quality representation at reasonable rates.
We look forward to answering all the questions you have and helping you take the next steps.