Unfortunately, most of us don’t get to choose when our marriage comes to an end – and we certainly did not choose to be living through a global health pandemic. For some people, both of those stressful life events are occurring simultaneously. If you are contemplating divorce, or you were already in the middle of the divorce process, you may have questions about divorce during the Covid-19 pandemic. Fort Worth divorce attorney Jon Boyd offers some general answers and guidance related to divorce during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In just three months, a novel coronavirus has spread throughout the world, causing entire countries to close their borders while their economies grind to a halt. Sadly, the United States is leading the world in the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19. Health care systems are straining to handle the sick and every state in the nation has issued a disaster declaration for the first time in history. Where does that leave you if you want to begin the divorce process or you are already in the middle of the process?
Normally, you can initiate the divorce process at any time as long as you meet the requirements to do so within the jurisdiction. Given the current state of affairs, you may be wondering if that is still the case.
Record unemployment across the country has millions of people worried about finances – and stuck at home without the ability to get out and let off steam. Fear, worry, and stress can strain an otherwise healthy marriage. Unless you were already heading toward divorce long before the pandemic, you may wish to hold off rushing to divorce court until things settle down to be certain that’s what you want to do. If you are determined to move forward, understand that the process may be slow at best right now.
Every court system in the country is wrestling with how to handle the pandemic. The interests of justice and the rights of litigants must be weighed against the potential threat posed by keeping the courts open to the public. Most courts have implemented emergency orders that close the courtrooms to the public and have postponed all court business that can be continued. Even criminal courts are only conducting essential business such as initial hearings or plea agreements – and even those are being conducted via video conferencing when possible. If you decide to file for divorce, check with a divorce attorney in your area to find out if and/or how to do so.
For those who initiated the divorce process prior to the pandemic, things can be even more complicated, and questions abound. Will scheduled hearings take place? What if I lost my job and can’t pay the court ordered child support? Do I still have to honor the temporary possession and access schedule? Can I submit new financial statements in lieu of my lost earnings?
All of these are valid questions. Unfortunately, the answers are not always clear nor uniform from one jurisdiction to another. If your divorce was already pending when the court system closed its doors, it will remain active. Scheduled hearings, however, may not occur if set during April or May. Court orders, whether relating to child support or possession and access, also remain in place; however, given the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves, judges are likely to consider any deviations or non-compliance with those orders on a case by case basis once this is over. That does not mean you can violate those orders with impunity. Violations are almost certain to be litigated after the fact with the court considering the “best interest of the child” standard when deciding what action, if any, to take. If you cannot pay your child support, or you do not feel you can abide by the parenting plan, talk to your divorce attorney immediately and explain your situation. Communication – with your attorney and with your spouse (or his/her attorney) is crucial right now.
If you have questions about divorce during the Covid-19 pandemic, contact an experienced Fort Worth divorce attorney at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.