The coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders have, for some couples, put a spotlight on marital issues. Our current situation has led to increased stress. The pandemic has threated business operation, leading to concerns about financial stability. The virus is threating the health of loved ones, leading to even more stress. These concerns added to increased time together without our typical social outlets have led more and more couples to consider divorce.
But if the pandemic has forced courthouses to close, can I file for a divorce?
Yes, the pandemic has caused courthouses to partially close in Virginia, or operate on an emergency basis. However, even if you cannot quickly get a divorce hearing, there are other ways to get a divorce or to address your family’s needs until you can get a hearing. Mediation is one way to get a case resolved when access to the courts is limited, as it offers an alternative to the traditional courtroom, litigation style of divorce. Mediation focuses on the couples negotiating to develop a settlement agreement.
If couples are able to reach a settlement agreement, whether through mediation or by negotiating through their attorneys, the agreement can be submitted to the court to finalize the divorce. So far, the pandemic has not impacted the courts being able to enter agreed-upon orders, so divorces can be finalized as long as all of the other jurisdictional requirements are met.
If traditional litigation is required, whether to address temporary or permanent issues, the court may do so virtually. Various apps are available to help make this option a possibility.
Is there anything I can do right now?
Those who are considering divorce and can take steps to help ease the process. Whether choosing mediation, negotiation or traditional litigation, it is helpful to get organized. Divorce requires the valuation and separation of assets. You can help ease this process by gathering paperwork to show what assets are present and, if available, their estimated worth. It is also helpful to review expenses and, if considering spousal or child support, get an idea of how much would constitute an appropriate payment.
Even if you are not sure if you are ready to move forward with the divorce, it can be helpful to speak to an attorney to make sure that you know what options are available to you, and that you are taking the steps necessary to protect your interests and your assets.