Social isolation and Stay-At-Home orders are making already bad situations worse. The stress of a pandemic, combined with the added financial stress can create uncomfortable situations for the best of relationships. If a relationship is struggling, then these added stressors can make things much worse. We are concerned about anyone struggling with their relationships during this time, and have created an easy-to-follow guide for what to do when you are considering divorce during the current pandemic.
First: STAY CALM.
It is very easy to lose control of your emotions and say or do something that may haunt you later. An unhappy relationship can stand up to normal times, but when there is the added pressure of financial burdens and a global pandemic, things can fall apart quickly. Losing your cool could lead to emergency proceedings – which the Courts are still open for. A court will still hear an emergency restriction of parenting time and protection order hearings. Keeping a level head while you work through your plans will help you in the long run.
If things are getting difficult, and keeping calm is much easier said than done, then reach out for help. Contact your support network – reach out to close family members or trusted friends. Many mental health professionals are also offering remove services during this time. Find someone who will be willing to listen to you and allow you vent, and maybe even help you plan your next steps.
Next, GET ADVICE.
Speak to a lawyer who specializes in divorce, separation and custody issues. Having an understanding about what your rights, obligations and what the process looks like will guide you though the initial stages of the separation process.
After a consultation with a good attorney, you will have an idea about what you need to do to begin the separation process, and be able to start creating your exit strategy. You will need to understand what financial pitfalls can exist as you prepare for divorce. You must understand what your child’s rights are when going through a separation between their parents. Make sure you also get an understanding of what your rights are.
Many attorneys are providing alternatives to in-person consultations during social distancing. Call a few to get an idea of how they are handling consultations during these stay at home orders. Find out how they will be available to you after you have spoken to them.
Now you are ready to MAKE A PLAN.
Knowing what your plans are before getting the divorce process started will go along way to making the steps easier and smoother.
A good plan will lay out:
- when you plan to file your separation paperwork with the court;
- who you plan to use as your lawyer, if anyone;
- whether you will file with your significant other, or without;
- when you want to have your spouse served;
- where will you live;
- how will you pay your bills; and
- who will help with your children.
Having a clear plan that addresses all of these concerns. Having a plan will make everything smoother on you in the long run. It will also make things easier on your children during this time.
When your plan is done, start GATHERING YOUR DOCUMENTS.
During the separation process, you will have to share many personal financial documents with the court and with the other person. Now would be the best time to make sure that you have access to all of the documents that you need – especially if you are not familiar with your family’s finances.
For a complete list of the documents you must disclose, check out Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 16.2. The financials can be daunting. Take it one step at a time.
Finally, PRIORITIZE YOUR CHILDREN through this process.
This pandemic is unlike anything we have ever seen before. With stay home orders in effect, alongside travel bans, parents face new decisions that no other generation of parents have had to deal with: exposing our children to COVID-19.
Exchanges that were once just an inconvenience now carry the potential of life and death decisions – do I expose my child, and the rest of my household, to the virus, or not? The Courts have been fairly clear on this issue – keep doing exchanges as usual. However, there are always exceptions to nearly every rule.
A good attorney will be able to talk to you about your options regarding your kids during the consultation.
Pandemic does not mean that you have to stay stuck in a relationship you are unhappy with – they mean that you need to have an exit plan. Each step in this process is designed to help you get your separation started.
At Alexander & Ewert, we remain dedicated to our clients though the unknowns of divorce during this pandemic. We remain open during this time, offering both phone and video visits. If you are in need of guidance on your separation during this pandemic, do not hesitate to reach out to our firm.