Can I Still Get a Divorce in Quarantine?

COVID-19 is affecting all areas of life, including divorce, a process already complicated by living arrangements, emotional stress, and financial uncertainty. If you are seeking a divorce in Florida, you need a well-informed, accessible divorce attorney to see you through. Orlando Family Team has the experience, comprehensive legal knowledge, and empathy to provide you with the help you need at this especially challenging time.

How has COVID-19 affected the process of divorce?

Most courthouses throughout Florida, including the Florida Supreme Court, have closed due to mandates on social distancing. As the apex of the epidemic is reached and passed, courts that have been closed will no doubt reopen and eventually return to some version of the “normal” judicial process. At present, however, you may find that pending matters will be heard at the judge’s discretion, varying on a case to case basis. One judge may still be following pre-pandemic procedures; another may be postponing all non-urgent matters.

The altered reality we are living in has changed a number of parts of the process of divorce, but be assured that a savvy attorney will be able to help you navigate. Fortunately for all of us, the internet has opened up possibilities that were unavailable during the last pandemic 100 years ago. With strong legal counsel at your side, you can still engage in meetings with your attorney, have motions and petitions filed online and even appear at online hearings, though, of course, there will be even longer delays than usual. 

In legal matters, as in all other parts of life, creative minds are now coming up with innovative solutions: for example, some courts are allowing financial documents to be filed through email and permitting divorcing individuals to attend court via video conferencing with the judge.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) 

During this period of court closures, it may be more efficient to turn to Alternative Dispute Resolution methods as an effective means of divorce since ADRs avoid courtrooms altogether. 

There are several ways that ADR divorces can be handled in cyberspace, including:

  • Mediation, during which a qualified counselor works with both spouses through video conferencing to help them arrive at a compromise acceptable to both parties
  • Collaborative law, in which each spouse has a lawyer, but the lawyers work in tandem rather than as adversaries, to find equitable terms of agreement

Where practiced, these options can lead to a more amicable, less adversarial, resolution that can be incorporated into a Final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. 

While emergency actions have been taken by the federal government to soften the blow, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which allows for loans for small businesses, penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts, and stimulus payments to those with lower incomes, families are still struggling. This is a good reason to make use of an ADR — a considerably less costly way of getting a divorce.

Nonetheless, you should remember that, during the COVID-19 outbreak, ADRs, as well as court events, may be backlogged and delayed.

How are finances affected by the health crisis?

The coronavirus is having a massive effect on the global economy and almost every individual has been, or will be, touched. Since dividing assets is a significant part of divorce, and since incomes, investments, and retirement benefits are all affected, it is extremely important to have astute professional assistance. 

Also, a great many people are accumulating a serious amount of debt during this crisis. Because marital debts are part of what must be divvied up in the divorce, your divorce attorney will help you figure out how best to proceed, both in terms of allocating and repaying your debts. More and more banks and other lenders are negotiating more flexible terms of repayment because of the pandemic which can be used to your advantage.

You are no doubt concerned about living without the income (typically the combined income)  marriage has provided. Having a spouse who is now unemployed and/or anticipating looking for work when the job market reopens are both daunting. Scrambling for health insurance when the increased risk of illness is highly elevated is also distressing. If your soon-to-be ex-spouse is still working, you may be able to negotiate, through your lawyer, for temporary spousal support during this critical period. 

Decisions a Skilled Divorce Attorney Will Help You To Make

How you make plans for your future will undoubtedly be changed by the current crisis. For example, while you and your spouse may want to sell your present home and split the purchase price, now is a difficult time to sell, not only because of the sharp economic downturn, but also because it is more problematic to show your home to would-be buyers under present social distancing requirements. 

Even in the face of a global health crisis, a strong divorce attorney can help you think through your plans for the future with a clear head. The important thing to realize is that even though it will be harder to get a divorce under quarantine, it is still possible with legal guidance from an accomplished divorce attorney. Orlando Family Team is, as always, available to give you thoughtful advice, whether you are contemplating divorce or need to modify your divorce agreement.

We understand how much stress the pandemic adds to the already overwhelming stress of divorce, especially when children are involved. Remember, we are here to get you through this and will use the safest methods for consultation. Contact us and together we will work out a strategy to proceed with your divorce while protecting the safety and well-being of yourself and your children.

Andrew Nickolaou

Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew also handles record expungements and sealings. If you have questions about this article, contact Andrew today by clicking here.