COVID Divorce: Has Your Divorce Process Stalled Now?
"Socially distant" steps to work through the legal process and get it done.
Posted March 27, 2020
You have started your divorce and were ready to move on. Perhaps you have already separated. If not, perhaps you are feeling trapped in your home with the person you are divorcing (or who is divorcing you). If so, here are some ideas that may help.
You are exhausted, anxious, and you just want to get the divorce finished so that you can put it behind you. Now, without warning, we are all seemingly frozen in space and time!
Divorce always brings a lot of uncertainty and the coronavirus adds an intense new layer of worry and anxiety. Under the “best” of circumstances, the divorce process is challenging and painful. The term “best of circumstances” now means that you and your spouse and your professionals are all healthy, able to go to work, able to access important information, able to meet in person and, basically, get things done. We all took this for granted just a few weeks ago.
So what can you do now?
Last night, my kitchen faucet got plugged up. But with the quarantine, I can’t have a plumber come to fix it. YouTube wasn’t very helpful either. So this will have to wait.
Why am I telling you this? Because your divorce process can continue. While plumbers don’t usually hold meetings online, many lawyers, divorce coaches, and financial specialists are now adapting to be able to work online.
Here is how to make that work:
- Ask your professionals if they can continue to work while quarantined. Some professionals are using conferencing calling or Zoom for virtual conferencing to continue to work with their clients. Let them know that you would like to do so. Ask what they need from you to get that started.
- Check in with your spouse to ask whether he or she is ready to continue in this new format.
- Consider a non-adversarial divorce, such as a Collaborative Divorce or mediation. This means asking yourself if you can manage your emotions during meetings that might be triggering. This will not only lessen the stress, but it will end up costing you less in fees. It really pays to find a way to manage your emotions during meetings. Your divorce coach can help you with that.
- If you have children, you’ll need to shelter them from your divorce work. Think about how you will be able to meet online (via Zoom or FaceTime, etc.) while protecting them from your conversations. Because meetings can often last two hours or so, this will be a good time to find a favorite movie online for your kids to watch.
- Get emotional support. If you plan to find a friend to talk to after a meeting, you won’t bring your feelings into your home life. Sometimes advice from well-intentioned friends and family can make a divorce more difficult. Trust your professionals’ expertise—they have helped many people through their divorces.
- It may be hard to sit across the table from your spouse in a face-to-face meeting. What will it be like to see them on your screen? Will the distance make it a bit easier for you?
- Do the tasks assigned by your professionals. This may mean collecting many financial documents that will have to be scanned or emailed. In the early stages of the divorce, with “full disclosure” mandated by law, this is the most important step in reaching a financial agreement. Fortunately, most documents are available either online or in your hard-copy files. If you need help locating documents, your financial specialist can probably help.
- Consider creating a shared online file, such as in Dropbox, in which to store all of these papers, so that you, your spouse, and your professionals can view them.
- Work with your divorce coach to create a parenting plan. A parenting plan generally includes more than just a schedule about how you will share time with your children. You may have a neutral divorce coach or perhaps you each have a coach to help you through the divorce process from start to finish. A divorce coach can help you understand the effect of divorce on children of different ages, as well as special needs. Again, online meetings will help you create the best parenting plan for your family.
- Take care of yourself during these stressful days and weeks. For some no-cost ideas, click here. Self-care is even more important now than in the “best of circumstances.”
Remember that you will get through this hard time and life will eventually feel normal again. Be kind to yourself, your spouse, your kids, and your professionals!
© Ann Buscho, Ph.D. 2020