Challenges of Filing for Divorce during a Pandemic

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May 5, 2020

It is impossible to know why so many marriages end, but the fact is that divorce rates are staggering. Many couples enter into marriage with unrealistic expectations; not understanding that a good marriage requires commitment and fidelity to remain strong. Stress, job pressures, and poor communication skills are some factors that cause problems in a marriage. When couples find it challenging to find a good balance between family issues, work-related stress, and outside pressures, divorce seems like the best solution. When it becomes clear to both parties that their marriage cannot be saved, the next logical step is to file for a divorce – even during a pandemic.

To File or Not to File

Divorce Attorney - Rebeccah Beller

No one could have predicted this pandemic, and no one knows when it will be over. Statistics show that more divorces are filed during times of stress, such as holidays or natural disasters. The current Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in this country and is causing a lot of uncertainty in all aspects of life. Marriages are not an exception. Once a couple decides to divorce, they are not willing to wait for weeks or months to file. They want to begin the process immediately and start working on a resolution and settlement. If they are certain that marriage counseling is not an option, the next step is to meet with a lawyer.

Hiring a Lawyer

Divorce lawyers are seeing the result of this pandemic on marriages. They are prepared for more people to be filing in the next few weeks and months. These legal professionals want couples to be completely sure that their marriage is beyond repair, and that reconciliation is not possible for them before deciding to hire a lawyer. Many standard legal procedures are being conducted differently right now. Divorce lawyers want clients to understand that, even though divorces are being filed and granted right now, the process has slowed down. If a couple has not already filed for divorce, it might be less stressful to wait out the pandemic. Divorce lawyers can advise clients based on their individual cases.

Issues with Filing

The court system has not come to a complete halt but is experiencing a backlog of cases. Even divorce cases that are already in progress can be delayed indefinitely. A lawyer can help couples understand the options they have available to them. It is possible that simple divorce applications can be filed electronically to help speed up the process. This might save time, but even this process has been affected by so many shutdowns. A check with a local lawyer might be the best option before filing electronically. Even this procedure could be delayed if electronic filers are not given priority because of the backlog of all cases.

Issues with Courts

All across the country, divorce cases are stacking up, because they are not considered urgent on any court agenda. As a precaution during this pandemic, state and federal courthouses are rearranging and postponing court dates until further notice. In most states, clerks are still processing new filings. Judges are attempting to resolve cases without hearings whenever possible. Simple cases do not require an in-person court appearance, which eliminates face-to-face contact. This complies with the social distancing guidelines.

Couple Mediation

Many judges recommend mediation for couples to help them reach agreements. The current trend in courts in many states is to require mediation before a court date is set. Because mediation is an effective strategy in settling approximately 85 percent of all divorce cases, it is being used extensively, especially during this pandemic where social distancing is required. Spouses do not even converse with each other. A third, objective party conducts the mediation. This practice keeps divorce cases down to a manageable level in the courts. It also helps couples by eliminating the long wait for a hearing and subsequent trial to be scheduled, which could be as long as a year.

Mediation only takes days or a few weeks to reach a binding settlement with less stress and hassle. The courts are bound by the settlements reached in mediation. Divorces settled by mediation are more likely to be granted in less time, even during a crisis such as this pandemic.

New Legal Procedures during a Pandemic

Even lawyer’s offices and courthouses are feeling the impact of this pandemic. Court clerks, judges, lawyers, and their staff are taking precautions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Most are wearing masks and practicing social distancing. It has become commonplace to see hand sanitizers on all desks. They are sanitizing desks, chairs, and even doors going into offices and courtrooms. Courtrooms are limited to ten people at a time.

Lawyers are filing divorce cases, but most are doing so electronically. They are using technology to hold teleconferences with their clients to avoid face-to-face meetings. Some lawyers are working from home, which can affect their office hours and routines. Some may use video calling with clients at this time. The courts may only be partially closed in some states, while they may be indefinitely closed in others where cases are on hold, pending the end of the pandemic.

How a Pandemic Can Affect Divorce Proceedings

If a state does not have a large amount of coronavirus cases, the courts may remain open and cases are allowed to proceed normally. Some courts will be closed until the pandemic ends. At that time, there will be a backlog of cases with a much longer than normal wait time. Filing now is key to getting a divorce processed much more quickly when the crisis is over.

An experienced lawyer can help speed up the process by monitoring the proceedings every step of the way. It is not necessary to delay getting a divorce until the pandemic is over. Procedures are in place that ensure that a divorce can proceed without a problem. Keep in mind that divorces are being granted every day, despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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