The interruption of daily life is presenting an enormous challenge for spouses who are currently in the middle of a divorce or who are contemplating filing for divorce. If we ignore for a moment the interruption of court activities, I can’t think of any other time in history where we have been consumed by so many distractions – from the news to homeschooling our kids to Googling instructions on how to sew face masks. It’s exhausting!
On the other hand, this may be an ideal time to focus on your divorce because you have a little extra time on your hands. (Think about how much time you are saving by not commuting, not traveling for work, not going to after-work functions, etc.)
If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably looking to turn the page to your next chapter. To keep your divorce moving forward in the coming weeks and months, here are 10 things you can do in your spare time:
1. Get organized
Getting a divorce involves lots of financial decisions. Knowing what assets you have (bank accounts, investments, retirement, real estate, and other significant property) will be vitally important. Start by making a list of what you and your spouse own together and what each of you owns separately. If you have access to statements or other written documentation of the value of each account or asset, collect them in one place. If you have to go to court to resolve any financial issues, judges and commissioners will want to see statements for at least the last six months for each account you own.
Likewise, you will need a list of all of your debts. This includes credit cards, lines of credit, mortgages, and other loans. Gather documentation about the current amount you owe for each of these.
Finally, gather information about your and your spouse’s income. A good place to start is the last two years of income taxes and your last six months of paystubs. This information will be used to determine spousal support, child support, and who pays for each party’s attorney’s fees.
2. Interview/hire an attorney
If you haven’t hired an attorney, now is a good time to interview and select one who can help you. The family law attorneys at Reed Longyear are available to hold consultations via video conference and phone.
3. Start the paperwork
There are many, many forms that need to be filled out to start a divorce. Now is a great time to work with your attorney to get them filled out and ready to file. Depending on your relationship with your spouse, you may want to work together to complete and file these documents together or you may want to fill the out on your own and wait to file until you know one or the other of you can move out.
4. Decide what you truly want
To finalize your divorce, you and your spouse must come to decision on several key things: child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and division of property and debt. A family law attorney at Reed Longyear can help you understand what your options are and get clarity on what you want in each of these areas.
5. Get a strategy in place
Divorce is not a one-time event. It is a journey and a process. There are several ways to go about making decisions and coming to an agreement on the issues that have to be decided. Take some time to learn about options such as mediation, collaborative divorce, and when it may be necessary to go to court.
6. Position yourself at the head of the line when the courts will reopen
Most courts are not hearing motions right now except in circumstances where someone’s life or safety are at risk. That doesn’t mean you can’t finalize the documents necessary to file a motion for relief for when the courts reopen for regular business.
7. Work through your parenting plan
If you have kids, now is the time to think through your parenting plan. Think about who will have primary custody, what the visitation schedule should look like, how you will make decisions about the children, and how to prepare your kids for the new normal.
8. Create an asset/debt worksheet
Collect all your known assets and debts in one big list. That will give you an idea of your family’s net worth and what you will be dividing. Some assets will be considered separate property and some assets are community property. All property is on the table for division and must be divided between you and your spouse in a “fair and equitable” manner.
9. If your process is stuck or stalled, hire a mediator
It is common for couples navigating the divorce process to see it stall or get stuck at certain points along the way. This is when you might need a little help from a mediator. Reed Longyear attorneys are conducting mediations virtually as well as representing clients in virtual mediations with other mediators.
10. Memorialize any agreement you make
It may be that you and your spouse are able to come to agreement on support, a parenting plan and/or the division of assets and debts. If you do, I want to be the first to congratulate you! Remember, though, an oral agreement is nearly impossible to enforce, so work with an attorney to put it in writing in a way that will be enforceable.
It might not seem like it, but if you’re miserable and you need to leave your marriage, it is absolutely still possible to get a divorce during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Reed Longyear’s family law attorneys are available to discuss your situation with you and chart a path forward. To schedule an appointment, email Reychyl at firstname.lastname@example.org.