The Coronavirus or COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on people’s lives and created a great deal of upheaval for so many. But what about people whose lives are already in upheaval because of divorce? The impact varies depending on the type of divorce process.
Sacramento County Courts are closed through at least April 16, 2020 for all non-emergency matters, including litigated divorces. Surrounding counties are also facing court closures or limited access. The courts are addressing modifications of spousal support, child support, child custody, or property related issues at this time. Any hearings or trials that were scheduled during this closure period are being rescheduled. In short, everything in the litigation process is at a screeching halt. When the courts reopen, the litigation system is likely to be backlogged for months.
Mediation and Collaborative Divorce Process
Parties proceeding in mediation or the Collaborative Divorce Process; however, are still able to move forward. One of the benefits of the non-litigated divorce processes, like mediation and Collaborative Divorce Process, is flexibility. Parties can control the speed and scheduling of their divorce process. In both mediation and Collaborative Divorce, we can schedule meetings using technology like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or similar applications. This allows Parties to continue moving forward in their divorce process.
Addressing Common Issues in a Divorce Case
Incomes are likely changing right now. Parties may need to consider a modification to child support and spousal support if they become unemployed or their income is reduced. Support modifications can be completed through mediation or the Collaborative Divorce Process at their time. Any modifications to support must be pursuant to a written agreement, signed by the Parties and filed with the court, when the courts reopen.
Child Custody and Childcare
The Coronavirus has upended the school year and childcare routines for families. Many are wondering: how does child custody get dealt with at this point?
Due to the unforeseen and unprecedented nature of this pandemic, parties should come back together to modify their parenting schedule. Also, there are likely additional child expenses for childcare as parties scramble to adjust their routines due to the Coronavirus. The parties should discuss changes to child custody schedules, how the timesharing will be adapted, and what new expenses may occur.
Parties may need to modify their original agreement to reflect current and upcoming changes. Modifications related to parenting schedules and child expenses should be memorialized in a written document that is filed with the court, when the courts reopen. It is still possible to work together and negotiate collaboratively on modifications during this time.
With the Sacramento County Courts closed for all non-emergency issues, any property division issues will not be heard. If parties are facing issues with assets, real property, investment accounts, stocks, or the like, they will not have access to the courts for a couple of months. Here too mediation or Collaborative Divorce can resolve property related issues immediately.
Pandemic-related Child Safety Concerns
There are some unique child safety concerns that could occur during this pandemic. One party may not be convinced the other is taking protective measures to prevent the Coronavirus. With mediation and the Collaborative Divorce Process, we can use child specialists or mental health professionals to evaluate what is safe for the child. We can establish ground rules for hygiene and contact safety, and we can craft specific guidelines in a parenting agreement that the parties abide by.