Everyone is worried about the coronavirus. For some, handwashing and social distancing concerns are mingled with the complicated factors involved in the divorce process. If you reside in Central Florida and are currently in the middle of a divorce proceeding, you are no doubt flummoxed by how the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases, and the government’s reaction to them, may be affecting your attempts to end your marriage. During this uncertain period, it is essential to have experienced divorce attorneys, like those at Orlando Family Team, to guide you.
No matter where you are in the divorce process, the pandemic may impact your divorce proceedings. In Florida, courts have closed or altered their methods of interactions and filings of motions and petitions; hearings and trials have been delayed. Courts throughout the nation have been unprepared to shift to modern technology now that it is far safer to handle legal matters over the internet rather than in the courtroom.
The judicial system has adapted to the health crisis by holding more and more court processes via video conference in order to protect the health and safety of litigants, attorneys, judges, and other courtroom personnel. But just as this adaptation was moving into full swing, the state of Florida is beginning to reopen. The only way to keep current on what impact these changes are having on your divorce is to communicate with a savvy divorce attorney who has your best interests at heart.
Legal steps that you and your attorney have already taken will remain in place in spite of variations in methods used, and your lawyer will make certain that you remain on course, moving ahead toward finalizing your divorce during this period of uncertainty. Even if there will be more delays than usual, be assured that your divorce will be finalized.
Present Arrangements Will Most Likely Involve Thoughtful Compromise
It was a great deal simpler to make decisions before almost all of them involved a life or death component. Now, the following areas are likely to require difficult choices. As always, such choices are more problematic when there are children involved and may include:
Where Each Spouse Will Live
It is possible that during the outbreak one spouse will become ill or directly exposed to the virus. If both parties have been living in the same home up to this point, the contagious spouse may be able to self-isolate if the home is large, or healthy members of the family may have to reside elsewhere. Obviously, the sick spouse may at some point require hospitalization.
Even if both spouses remain healthy, one may still put other family members at risk because of his/her occupation (e.g. healthcare provider, mass transit worker ), or because she/he fails to take precautions (e.g. refusing to social distance or to wash hands frequently). In that case, who remains in the home?
When There Are Children Involved
If the spouses already live separately, and there are children in the family, the situation may become even more complex:
- Suppose there has been a stipulation of the separation agreement that one parent will have sole custody of the children, but that parent is more likely to put the children at risk because of his/her occupation or habits?
- Suppose the parents have been sharing joint custody but it is no longer safe for the children to travel from one home to the other by public transportation?
- Suppose one parent lives in a private home with access to private outdoor freedom and the other occupies an apartment in which the only access to the fresh air is a small, public elevator?
Other factors may enter into the equation, such as:
- Is a member of the family at high risk for COVID-19?
- Does one spouse regularly spend unprotected time with a possibly contagious person?
- Is only one spouse able to work from home?
- Is one spouse a substance abuser or mentally unstable?
- Has one spouse been accused of domestic violence?
As you can see, there are a great many questions to be answered and resolved. While generally speaking, any court decisions already in progress are legally binding, most couples can agree to temporary arrangements that are workable under these unusual circumstances because both usually love their children and want what’s best for them. For example, one parent may agree to spend parenting time outdoors to protect the children’s health; another may forego visits now in exchange for make-up time once the crisis has passed.
What To Do If Your Spouse Won’t Cooperate
You should definitely consult with your trusted divorce attorney if you and your spouse cannot agree on a viable temporary living, child custody and parenting time arrangements. The best idea may be for both of you to agree to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, such as Mediation, or Collaborative Divorce, that will avoid a courtroom proceeding. Each of these methods offers a non-adversarial approach to severing marriage ties and is very often a preferable, less costly option.
How Financial Effects of the Pandemic May Impact Your Current Divorce
Whether your divorce is pending or the decree has been finalized, the coronavirus will almost certainly have an effect on your finances, perhaps impacting your own or your spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s) income, business, investments and/or retirement benefits. This is another strong reason to confer with your divorce attorney to make certain you are up-to-date in your understanding of whether modifications may have to be made in your upcoming, or established, divorce decree.
One parent may, if ill or laid off, require temporary emergency spousal maintenance. It is also possible that child custody and/or parenting time arrangements will have to be recrafted or, if already in place, modified to be appropriate in the altered circumstances produced by the pandemic. Additionally, you may find the value of your home has depreciated or that selling your home in the near future may not be practicable. You may have also unavoidably fallen into debt because of lost income.
You may be wondering how such sudden alterations in your finances may affect the distribution of assets between you and your spouse, or your child custody or child support responsibilities. Once again, solving such problems through an ADR process may be easier and more cost-effective than a court battle, not to mention, less emotionally taxing to all members of your family.
When You Don’t Know Where To Turn, Turn to Orlando Family Team
In this time defined by the coronavirus, when the world is fighting for its life, to have your own little corner of the globe also disassembling may seem like cruel and unusual punishment. At Orlando Family Team we are here when you need us most, ready to assist you in navigating a judicial system in flux when your own home is divided against itself. Our talented, compassionate team will answer all of your questions and address all of your concerns. Call today.