Divorcing While Sheltering-In-Place Due to Covid-19 or Coronavirus
Divorce is supposed to be one of life’s most stressful events. And then you add Covid-19 and school closures to the mix. It is a highly combustible situation! The stress level for our clients, especially those who have a high-conflict parenting relationship with their ex-spouse, is off the charts right now.
While we are all new to this constantly changing landscape, below are some tips to help guide litigants and parents during this uncertain time.
- Continued Hearings. Many courts in the Bay Area have postponed non-essential court hearings. If you have a matter pending with the court, go online or contact your attorney to find out whether your case has been impacted. Do not appear in court if you are sick or symptomatic. Contact your department and ask the clerk for permission to attend your appearance telephonically. If you cannot reach your department’s clerk, try calling the court’s family law clerk for more information. For updates on California court proceedings, visit: https://support.onelegal.com/california-court-updates-covid-19
- ADR. Ask your attorney about ADR, including mediation, attorney-assisted negotiation and settlement, private judging, or collaborative divorce to move your divorce case forward to a resolution while the Shelter-In-Place Order continues. Many divorce professionals are continuing to resolve cases using Zoom or other web conferencing technology. There is no reason why your case should have to stop just because the courts are temporarily shut down.
- Domestic Violence Restraining Orders. For those of you who are in an abusive situation or need the protection of a domestic violence order, know that courts remain open to issue emergency domestic violence restraining orders. Also, law enforcement and emergency services continue to operate. You can call the police if you are experiencing domestic violence.
- New Divorce Cases. Can you start a divorce now? Yes, the courts are allowing cases to be filed. However, the appropriate timing of a divorce filing really depends on the unique circumstances of your case. You should consult with a family law attorney for advice about timing.
- Follow your Custody Orders/ Parenting Plans. Do not use Covid-19 as an excuse not to exchange your children or follow a court order or written parenting plan. Judges will not look kindly upon parents who use this crisis as an excuse to withhold their children from the other parent. Moreover, children right now need a stable home life more than ever because they are losing the structure and routine associated with attending school. If your children are accustomed to a regular parenting schedule, this schedule should continue unless there are exigent or emergency circumstances warranting a deviation, such as the other parent is self-isolating or has been diagnosed with Covid-19. If you are truly concerned about the other parent’s ability to parent safely during this crisis, you should promptly seek legal advice. If your parenting plan or custody orders are ambiguous and you are unsure how to handle the school closure, try to work it out with the other parent or seek legal advice if necessary. Try to be flexible and put the needs of your children first.
- The Importance of Self-Care. Please put the oxygen mask on yourself before your child (i.e., the importance of self-care). Now is the time for parents to take care of themselves so that they are able to take care for their children. This includes eating well, getting enough sleep, and getting exercise. Stress can also be managed with the help of a meditation app, such as Calm. It’s also important that we all find opportunities to connect with one another where we can by telephone or Zoom.
- Follow the CDC Guidelines. Please also help each other by following the CDC guidelines and orders of our local and State governments. For more information, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Obviously, this is a rapidly changing situation. The information provided above does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Nor is the information contained in this article intended to be exhaustive. Readers of this article should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular family law matter.