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How to Handle Divorce Cases During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Having struggled to come to a decision whether to divorce, many couples now face the prospect of trying to complete the process during a viral pandemic, the likes of which we have not seen in over 50 years. The novel coronavirus, which is behind COVID-19, is easily transmissible and has led to the shutdown of our state. However, couples who want to divorce are understandably eager to not let the virus get in their way.

At Lawrence Law Office, our Ohio divorce lawyers examine what you need to know. Fortunately, divorce is still possible, but there are some considerations that might slow the process at least a little.

You Can Still File for Divorce

The courts in Ohio are open. Other states have closed their courthouses to the public, but that is not the case in Ohio. If you want to file for divorce, you can still do so. In any event, the lawyers at Lawrence Law Office know how to file electronically.

Social Distancing Could Impede Mediation

Ideally, couples can agree on several key aspects of their divorce: child custody, child support, alimony, and the division of marital property. To encourage cooperation, many judges order couples to attend mediation. A neutral third party will help the couple take a fresh look at their dispute and try to find areas of agreement.

Mediation typically happens in a conference room, but social distancing could make that difficult. If either spouse feels ill, he or she absolutely should not attend mediation but should instead request rescheduling.

We have no idea how long Ohio’s current stay-at-home order will be in place, but this virus could be circulating in the public for quite some time. Mediation might always carry a risk. We encourage you to consult with an attorney if you have concerns.

Valuing Property Could Take More Time

Before you can fairly divide marital assets, you might need them professionally appraised. This is true of real estate, jewelry, and business interests.

Finding an appraiser could be difficult right now. Many businesses have closed, and others have furloughed workers while retaining only a skeletal staff. You might need to wait longer to have assets properly appraised, which can gum up the divorce process.

You Might not Be Able to Move Out of Your House

After deciding to divorce, some people move out of their home and into an apartment or in with friends. But moving could be very difficult right now. For one thing, it’s not even clear whether you can move and still comply with the stay-at-home order issued by Governor DeWine. For another, many property management companies might be closed for the duration of the pandemic.

Interestingly, being stuck in the same house could work to our client’s advantage. Judges make child custody decisions based on many factors, one of which is the parent’s relationship with the children. If you move out of the marital home, leaving your children behind, then you set the stage for the judge to give your spouse child custody, even temporarily. You are certainly signaling to the judge that your relationship with your children is less substantial than the one your spouse has with them.

It might seem ironic, but the stay-at-home order could work to your benefit. Living under the same roof when you’ve decided to divorce is difficult—we don’t doubt that. But if you can make it work, it sets you up for a stronger argument in a child custody hearing.

Money Could Be Tight

Unfortunately, the Governor’s decision to shut nonessential businesses means that many people are out of work. During the last week in March, more than 270,000 people filed for unemployment in Ohio—a record number. Until the pandemic passes, businesses will not remotely get back to normal.

Many of our clients might have lost their job or have suffered reduced hours. In any event, money is probably tight. Many clients also probably do not know when they can return to their job, if ever.

Financial stress changes the dynamics of a divorce. For example, you might request more marital property to help offset a decline in financial prospects. If you lost your job, you might also request temporary or permanent alimony to help you support yourself. Discuss these options with your Ohio divorce lawyer, because now is the time to request financial assistance from the court.

Contact Us for a Consultation

Lawrence Law Office remains open as an essential service during this pandemic. For help with your divorce, or simply to talk with an experienced lawyer about your options, please contact us today.

Lawrence Law Office

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496 S 3rd St Columbus, OH 43215

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P: (614) 228-3664 / F: (614) 228-3798