Divorce can be devastating no matter the circumstance. However, divorce may be more challenging than ever in these unprecedented times. With in-home working, increased financial pressures, and temporary court closings, there are some additional considerations that may lend itself to mediation for those contemplating divorce.
1.) Seek Out Advice and Decide on Your Method of Divorce– The first thing to do if you are contemplating divorce is to seek out advice about the process, the law, and your specific issues. Being fully informed will help you feel at ease at a time when most things seem so out of control. Ask those you know and trust to provide some recommendations for lawyers who specialize in divorce/family law in your jurisdiction and then schedule some appointments. Although an in-person meeting is probably not feasible at this time, most practitioners are willing to schedule a phone or video consult, and in fact they may be more readily available now since most judicial proceedings have been suspended while the courts are closed. A thorough consult will provide you with necessary information to make a decision as to whether you want to proceed, the necessary timing, and guidance as to how to move forward.
In Florida, approximately 95% of all divorcing couples use mediation to avoid going to trial. If a couples hire attorneys, the attorneys will likely resolve their case in mediation. If you choose a DIY (Do It Yourself) divorce and file the paperwork on your own, the court will almost always send you to mediation where you can resolve any issues. And finally, if you choose the option of pre-suit divorce mediation, you will engage in the mediation process with the goal of creating your marital settlement agreement (MSA) and Parenting Plan if there are children.
2.) Gather Necessary Documents – With most activities being suspended and people staying home, now is an opportune time to gather necessary documents for divorce. Important financial documents include tax returns and income information, as well as documents regarding retirement accounts and investments, debt, insurance information, and appraisals of property.
Even if you were never interested in or participated in the finances, it is not too late to identify and understand this information. Contact your accountant or financial advisor if you need assistance. If you proceed with a divorce, having some of this information ready will likely save you time and money in the long-run. It is also an opportune time to understand your finances and figure out your expenses. This is a useful exercise whether or not you ultimately proceed with a divorce. Consider that things may have changed financially with the temporary closure of some workplaces.
3.) Determine A Plan – This is the time to consider your options and figure out a game plan. Sometimes partners reach a mutual decision to divorce. But sometimes one partner makes the decision unilaterally. In Florida, when one spouse says it’s over, it is. There may be hoops to jump through but if someone wants out of the marriage and tells the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court will dissolve the marriage. Nonetheless, before a couple can be divorced, parenting and financial decisions must be made, and paperwork must be prepared and filed with the court.
If you and your spouse are in agreement that the marriage is over and are amicable, this may be a perfect opportunity to discuss the issues and to see if there are matters to which you can agree. Mediation is a great option at this time through video conferencing. Many hearings and evidentiary hearings are getting postponed at this time and judges are encouraging couple to mediation. Most courts still remain open to receive filings if you want to start the process and in some circuits the judges are scheduling final hearings for uncontested divorces.
4.) Prioritize Your Children – When there are children involved, it is important to remember that being a parent should take precedence over any personal differences you are facing with your spouse. For the sake of the children, it is best to keep them as isolated as possible from marital discord. Keep in mind that despite your differences, you will need to continue to parent together even if your marriage does not last.
5.) Keep Calm – Being cooped up at home in an unhappy relationship is difficult and the added pressure of being faced with a pandemic certainly makes it that much harder. Harsh words by way of email and text can come back to haunt you in a future proceeding, and explosive or violent behavior may result in a domestic violence action, which are still being heard by the courts. Instead, find ways to remain cool and calm. Seek out assistance by way of a remote therapist and/or lean on your support system – there are still people out there who are willing to listen and help you. Meditate, go outside for some fresh air, or find other ways to calm yourself and avoid constant confrontation.
If you or someone you know is divorcing, feel free to contact Deborah Beylus at South Florida Mediation Services to see if mediation is appropriate at (561) 789-0710. https://www.southfloridamediationservices.com/