Divorce During COVID – Top 5 Problems To Watch Out For | Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson PLLC
We’ve all read the headlines that divorce rates are rising around the world and those rates aren’t expected to drop anytime soon. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many of us to our limits. People are stressed and locked in, which has put pressure on relationships that may already be held in a rope. Whether you are just planning to get a divorce or are already in the process of doing so, here are some of the ways this pandemic can impact your divorce.
Co-parenting during the crisis
Even the most reasonable parents can have very different ideas about how to keep their children safe during the pandemic. This has led to fierce struggles between parents both in and out of court. In general, we look to CDC guidelines and government orders to determine the types of precautions families should take. But these guidelines are not suitable for all situations and sometimes their application may not be clear when it comes to loved ones with serious health problems. Every family situation is unique and problem solving should be tailored to your personal situation. Advice from a co-parenting coach or even co-parenting mediation can be very helpful when parents disagree.
In the event of a divorce, you will need to enter a parenting plan with the court which will include a detailed residential schedule for your children. During the pandemic, most children attend online school from home, and parents have had to change their work schedules to stay home with their children. The babysitting and work schedule you have in place now could be very different next year when you get back to your regular routine. Be sure to take these upcoming changes into account and consider a phased residential schedule.
Instability of spousal support
Spousal support is often largely based on the need of the person seeking support and the ability of the paying spouse to provide support, which means that both spouses’ income and expenses must be considered. Right now, many of us are spending less because we stay at home more, eat less at restaurants, and forgo travel. In turn, many paying spouses have experienced a decline in income that affects their ability to pay child support for the foreseeable future. Be sure to determine whether your or your spouse’s drop in income will be short-term or long-term, and consider your future expenses when determining support payments.
Child support considerations
The court is responsible for taking into account all income and resources of each parent’s household when determining child support. Loss of income or employment during this time can make it harder to calculate child support. Your family law attorney should collect information on any COVID-related income received, such as CARES law retirement distributions, unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, and discounts.
Valuing assets in times of uncertainty
It’s no surprise that businesses of all kinds have suffered a lot over the past year. This is especially true for businesses in the service industry such as restaurants, bars, gyms, and travel-related businesses. Some businesses have remained open with the help of federal funds, such as the Paycheck Protection Program. But will your loan be repayable and how are those funds reflected in a business valuation? With more of us receiving vaccines, the economy is expected to rebound, but what that means for any particular company is unclear. It could take more than a year to see the true impacts of the pandemic on our businesses. Be sure to hire a highly trained assessment professional who will understand these rapidly evolving issues. It’s also important to communicate with your lender about loan forgiveness guidelines, document everything, and request a loan forgiveness!
If either spouse wishes to keep the family home or other real estate, a value will need to be determined for the property. A chartered real estate appraiser will provide the market value of the home by looking at comparable sales. Although the economy has been hit hard in the past year due to the pandemic, the residential real estate market has held up in the United States and particularly in the Seattle area. However, it is important to keep an eye on the market and choose the right time to appraise your property.
Access to courts and creative alternatives
Did you know that the majority of divorces are settled out of court? Over the past year, we have seen an increased interest in creative problem solving and alternative dispute resolution. This can include early mediation and arbitration, the use of co-parenting coaches, or entering a collaborative law process.
What if you can’t reach an agreement and need legal intervention? The courts are now open but with modified operations. This may mean that your hearing or trial may take longer than usual to be heard by a commissioner or judge. Locally, of course, all family law hearings, arbitrations and mediations now take place online. It is important that your lawyer is comfortable with the new technology.
The divorce process may seem different, but by emphasizing creative alternatives, you can achieve a peaceful resolution in your case.