Navigating Divorce in the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has complicated many things: Health, school, work, socializing, and especially relationships. Staying at home surrounded by the same faces, behaviors, and habits can take a toll on anyone. A global pandemic only makes it harder to enjoy a healthy relationship because couples are stressed out like never before. Millions of Americans are unemployed, sick with COVID-19, working or studying from home, and trying to stay sane amid this chaos.
As a result, countless married couples have found it harder to see a future with their spouses. While COVID-19 is not proven to be directly related to divorce filings, it is not surprising that COVID-19 has caused many people to question their marriages. The economic, physical, mental, and social impacts of COVID-19 have pushed people to their breaking points, particularly, married couples. Feelings that were bottled up for years may have surfaced and created irreparable tensions. After all, people have more time on their hands during this pandemic.
Thus, if you are contemplating divorce, know that you have options. While you may be adamant about filing for divorce right away, you and your spouse may want to consider the following divorce options first before taking action during COVID-19.
Mediation is an affordable alternative to going to court for your divorce. It requires couples to resolve their issues on their own and with the guidance of a trained and qualified mediator. Mediators are neutral, unbiased, third-party professionals who help couples reach solutions to their problems. Although it would be nice, mediators do not make decisions for spouses nor do they ensure spouses’ decisions and agreements are fair or effective.
Instead, mediation allows couples to come to their own agreements on their own terms. Issues such as child support, child custody, and property division are often resolved during mediation sessions. With this in mind, spouses who choose mediation for their divorce should be on civil and amicable terms, otherwise, it would be practically useless for both parties to problem-solve when they refuse to listen nor cooperate.
It’s important to note that not all mediators are lawyers, therefore, your mediator may not know if your agreements and divorce terms are legal. Mediators simply facilitate a discussion and help divorcing spouses resolve disputes in a mutually beneficial way.
During COVID-19, you and your spouse will likely attend virtual mediation sessions, which have been widely popular, cost-effective, and convenient for many people so far.
While collaborative divorce and mediation are similar in that both options allow spouses to decide the terms of their divorce and decide what’s fair without going to court, there are some key differences. One difference between mediation and collaborative divorce is that both spouses hire their own attorneys to represent them throughout the process as well as guide and negotiate for them during meetings. Having a private attorney allows each spouse to ensure their agreements are legal, fair, and effective. The spouses’ collaborative divorce lawyers will then require them to sign a “no-court” agreement.
The most expensive divorce option is litigation, which requires both spouses to go to court and let a judge make all the decisions for them. Oftentimes, divorcing spouses who are not on good terms and cannot get along even if their life depended on it choose litigation. As a result, the divorce process can extend for months and even years depending on the type and nature of the case. Not to mention, COVID-19 has created a months-long backlog in the Illinois Family Courts.
So, if you’re looking at divorce litigation during COVID-19, prepare to experience delays, virtual proceedings, technical difficulties, high expenses, and more. Luckily, though, a good lawyer may be able to help minimize the issues that could arise during your case, especially COVID-19 related factors.
If you’re contemplating your divorce options during COVID-19, you may want to consider a legal separation. This is especially true if you recently started thinking about divorce during the pandemic and aren’t 100% sure if it’s right for you. Or, you may consider legal separation if you need time to work out the provisions of your divorce settlement before you officially call it quits.
A legal separation is a court-ordered agreement that orders a couple to live apart, fulfill certain duties, and oblige to certain agreements such as child custody and support. In a legal separation, spouses remain married. Since spouses remain spouses, they can file taxes jointly, retain each other’s benefits in certain cases, adhere to their religious beliefs, qualify for certain social security benefits, and more. But spouses cannot remarry.
Questions about your divorce options? Wondering how your case will be affected by COVID-19? Get the clarity you need by contacting our family lawyers at (847) 906-2555 to arrange a consultation! We proudly offer mediation services at our firm.