Divorce in and of itself is very stressful. Unfortunately, recent changes in divorce proceedings brought about by the global pandemic have only served to increase the amount of stress involved. Getting a divorce in 2021 is going to look very different from what it looked like prior to March 1, 2020.
What is Different About Divorce in 2021?
Since the start of COVID-19, it has become increasingly more difficult to schedule a date for a divorce hearing. For one thing, the number of people seeking a divorce has spiked recently due to the stressors brought about by the pandemic. Also, many Courts were already backlogged with cases before the coronavirus started, so the addition of numerous recent cases has only served to slow things down even more.
It used to be that if an emergency situation arose, an attorney could run into court and request an emergency hearing. Today, however, access to the Court is limited.
Very few proceedings are being conducted in person, so the parties involved should be prepared to have their hearings on Zoom. As of now, only a handful of trials are being conducted in person, and some judges are asking the parties to request in writing why they want an in-person trial. As a result of most hearings being virtual, the judges’ ability to assess the witnesses’ credibility and to get an accurate sense of the dynamics between the parties is limited. Because of that, the judge may not get a full sense of what is actually transpiring between you and your partner.
All preliminary matters held before a judge prior to the trial are being conducted virtually. Virtual hearings can make it more difficult to communicate with your attorney during the proceedings. This makes it all the more critical to have a good working relationship with your attorney, so together you can come up with an alternate method to discuss any questions or concerns that come up during the hearing.
How Has COVID-19 Affected Divorce-Related Issues?
Those going through a divorce right now have less access to support systems such as church and friends, which can be detrimental to their mental and emotional health. It is very important that they develop a good relationship with their attorney so they can trust someone to give them clear guidance during a stressful and confusing time. Moving legal matters into the virtual world can also make it more difficult to find a private moment to speaks with your attorney since it is likely that children or even your estranged partner could be around the house due to restricted social activities.
Additionally, housing issues related to a divorce are now more complicated. If you decide to sell your house, you will need to assess whether you feel comfortable with prospective buyers going in and out of your home. Also, with the current housing shortage, you’ll want to be sure you can find new housing once you do sell. Make sure to consider the impact of selling a family home on any children involved. They have already had to adapt to remote learning; ask yourself if you really want to put them through having to navigate two different homes as well.
Many individuals are experiencing job insecurity or a reduction in pay right now, which can affect support equations that are determined during a divorce. The pandemic has also altered overtime pay, bonuses, and furlough, which all must be factored into a divorce settlement.
Do What You Can to Reach Closure
Divorce creates a great deal of stress for all those touched by it, including children, extended family, and friends. It is in everyone’s best interest to move through the proceedings as efficiently as possible in order to reach a resolution. Make sure you’re not prolonging the fight just for the sake of fighting. The pace and efficiency of the proceedings are somewhat dependent on your behavior and approach. Be practical and ask yourself if you truly want the divorce to drag on for months.
The judges are the other factor in the timeline of a divorce case. Some judges in Massachusetts are moving cases through quickly, while others are bogged down with a backlog. It is advantageous to work with an attorney who practices primarily in your county, as your attorney will be familiar with the scheduling practices and calendar in the relevant Court.
At the end of the day, reaching a resolution in a divorce settlement isn’t always just about numbers; it’s also about the quality of life. Look at the big picture and determine what’s most important to you and what your goals are in this process Then you can approach your decisions during the divorce with these goals in mind.