As The World Reopens: What’s the Impact on Your Divorce?

For at least a year the world, families, and each of us in those families have had to deal with extreme life changes brought on by the COVID-pandemic. Now that the vaccination process is underway, and most portions of the state are beginning to relax their COVID restrictions and even partially re-open schools, more life changes or adaptations are coming.

What can families of divorce, or those contemplating divorce, expect as far as further complications to their lives and/or the divorce process via the Courts?

Things to Know or Consider

  1. The Courts are backlogged. Anything involving the Court is likely to take twice as long as it did before. In some situations it may be even longer. These delays are resulting in additional costs. Your legal expenses will be higher. It is not unusual for a continuance or two. This is frustrating for everyone. Both parties are affected.
  2. The state of the Courts should result in you and your spouse, with the assistance of your attorneys, to seriously consider other forms of resolution regarding your divorce. The use of meetings between counsel, meetings with parties and counsel, collaborative law, or mediation should all be seriously considered. Communicate with your counsel to be sure you understand all the options available to you.
  3. Prior to the pandemic, the discussion of divorce and/or the process of divorcing was an emotional and trying time in a person and a family’s life. Adding the pandemic into the mix only heightens the emotional issues of each family member. Be patient with yourself, your spouse, and your children. Give yourself and your children time without the issues surrounding the divorce. Where possible acknowledging the emotional issues will help every family member. Seeking therapy as a check-in for each family member should be consider.
  4. If you and your spouse have children, work together to see, hear and listen to each child. Share with each other what you are observing about each child. Even if you have different parenting styles or you disagree on issues regarding COVID, school, or socializing it is important for your children to have a voice. Your children knowing that they can talk to their parent(s) will make a different for them. It is important for your children to be able to share what they are feeling and dealing with whether it concerns the divorce or other issues in their life.
  5. Gather the information you need to have a clear picture of the whole divorce process and issues. Take the time to use that information to prioritize what is important to you. Provide that information to your attorney. Work with your attorney to determine the best way in the current state of the world to achieve your goals. Understand that it may be necessary to modify your goals as the process moves forward.
  6. Based on initial feedback from some schools, whether or not to allow children to resume in-person schooling is a legal custody decision. So, if you and your child’s co-parent are not in accord, steps may need to be taken for this time sensitive issue to be resolved. There are risks and benefits to consider. Many are being given little time to make initial elections via the schools.
  7. The evolution of the return to in-person schooling, and associated extracurricular activities, which are now underway in several local jurisdictions, will add more variability to the weekday routines for parents as each county adjusts and adapts. This means more short-term uncertainty and the need for continued flexibility in your schedule and routine.
  8. Empty schools were formerly being used to facilitate socially distanced day-time childcare for working parents. Those opportunities will now diminish with schools resuming operations in-person, meaning some parents will actually have more parenting to do now that schools are partially back in session.
  9. Depending upon the pace and completeness of the vaccine rollout, what, if any, vacations or summer camps may be possible for your families or children will vary widely and may still be in the planning stages. Be creative. And have a back-up plan.

Erik Arena is a divorce attorney who handles cases involving domestic relations and family law. For more information, contact Erik at [email protected].