How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Collaborative Divorce Processes
Although it’s too early in the COVID-19 pandemic to tell if being cooped up will cause more couples to file for divorce, more than 32% of married people said that the pandemic-related lockdowns, quarantine and isolation have harmed their relationships. Many divorce lawyers in Pennsylvania have anecdotally noted an increase in inquiries about initiating a divorce, and being stuck inside together may be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. If you’re already in the midst of divorce proceedings, the pandemic has also likely caused some changes in what you thought, or hoped, would be a smooth and speedy process.
Technology for Facilitating Discussions
When you need to discuss an issue with your divorce lawyer, you’ll probably rely on technology for it. Due to COVID-19, in-person meetings may not be an option. Instead, you may discuss the issue with your attorney over the phone or a video call. You’ll still maintain confidentiality and be able to get answers to your questions about the proceedings.
Remote or Virtual Meetings Instead of In-person Consultations
Before COVID-19, mediation for collaborative divorces took place in person, usually in a small conference or meeting room in the courthouse. Now, that option may not be available. Instead, you’ll likely use an app, website or software such as Zoom to have a secure meeting. If the court has facilities that will allow you to maintain social distancing while negotiating in person, you may be able to engage in face-to-face discussions. However, you’ll need to wear a face covering and prepare for long backlogs for accessing courthouse facilities and services.
New Areas of Disagreement Requiring Mediation
The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought about some new areas of disagreement that require assistance from your mediator. For example, if you or your ex-spouse is a health care worker or another type of essential worker, your custody preferences may change. If one of you has a health condition that puts you at a higher risk of developing a serious illness or dying from COVID-19, you may need to work on backup plans for guardianship, custody and visitation that you hadn’t considered before the pandemic. If you or your ex-spouse lost a job as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns, you may have new areas to mediate around spousal support and the division of assets.
Increase in Stress and Anxiety
Many people are more stressed and anxious because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This affects your mood, train of thought, ability to focus and overall sense of well-being. When you’re stressed and anxious, it’s easier to lose your temper or be disagreeable. Keep in mind that the pandemic has had deep effects on mental health, and it may affect your ex-spouse differently than it affects you. You or your ex-spouse may be worried about job loss, securing food, getting sick or losing a loved one to COVID-19.
Postponement of Processes If a Party Becomes Ill
Sometimes, you need several meetings with your ex-spouse, his or her attorney and your lawyer as well as the court appointee to work through all of the areas of the disagreement. It’s possible that over time, one of the parties could become ill with COVID-19 or experience some other health problem. In such a case, you may be able to petition for an extension of the collaborative process.
If your needs or situation have changed due to the COVID-19 crisis, we can help. At the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner, we’re here to help you with updating your collaborative divorce agreement to change custody schedules, visitation and alimony or child support payments. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an upheaval in many lives, and you can turn to us for help with alleviating some of the stress related to your divorce process or arrangements. To schedule a consultation with our Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, attorney, contact us online or call (215) 886-1266.