The last several months have created new difficulties for many people. As COVID-19 has spread throughout the state, Texans have had to adjust to a new way of life.
The challenges posed by the COVID-19 quarantine have affected Texans in different ways. Stress over employment issues, questions over continued lockdowns of public schools, and reduced hours at essential businesses have surely taken a toll on people. For some, the quarantine has led them to view their relationships in a different light. Personal differences that could previously be ignored must now be confronted on a daily basis. Even Kelly Clarkson revealed that the quarantine led her to divorce Brandon Blackstock, her husband of seven years.
While it may feel like the world is on pause, there is no reason to delay the resolution of a family law matter. If you are contemplating a divorce during quarantine, please read below for a brief overview of some key considerations.
Many believe that all divorce suits occur entirely in the local court system. But this is not necessarily true. Texas permits and encourages couples to engage in a variety of alternative dispute resolution methods instead of traditional litigation. For those who are anxious about appearing in court (even remotely), ADR methods such as mediation or arbitration may present some attractive options. In mediation, the couple is assisted by their lawyers and a neutral mediator to arrive at a solution, without resorting to a decision by a judge. Alternatively, arbitration allows those who wish to avoid court to still submit their dispute to a neutral decision-maker. The difference between mediation and arbitration is that in arbitration, the arbitrator makes a decision whereas in mediation, the mediator cannot decide and the parties only reach a settlement if they agree.
The legal industry is known for being slow to adapt. However, law firms can no longer resist change. Life continues despite the COVID-19 crisis, and Texans need lawyers that can adapt to our new reality. It is important to select a legal team that can adapt to changing circumstances. The lawyers at Kirker | Davis LLP have been representing clients remotely since the first day of Travis County’s shelter-in-place order. Whether it’s meeting with clients, deposing opposing parties, or attending court hearings, the lawyers at Kirker | Davis LLP have the ability to achieve their clients’ goals—remotely.
The dissolution of marriage includes the legal division of the spouses’ assets, so it is important to have an understanding of your financial situation at the beginning of the separation process. This division will include the couple’s debts, which may implicate recent events during the COVID-19 quarantine. If your spouse’s car or mortgage payments have gone unpaid, it is best to consult with a lawyer to assess any potential liability to yourself. Additionally, some companies have instituted forbearance periods during COVID-19 (the federal government’s interest-free student loan period being one such example). Fortunately, the time spent cooped up at home can be a great opportunity to gather financial documents. This may be especially important given that obtaining such documents tends to become more difficult once proceedings have been initiated. Many companies have improved their electronic records access as a result of COVID-19, so be sure to check with your credit card providers, mortgage company, vehicle lender and other loan service providers.
The creation of a co-parenting plan can cause headaches even in the most amicable disputes. When the COVID-19 quarantine is added into the mix, you can have a recipe for an especially contentious negotiation. However, parents can also use the quarantine as an opportunity to focus on their goals. As school districts weigh the possibility of extended remote-learning periods, parents who are working from home may have the opportunity to spend more time with their children, even after a separation. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Texas has already explained how quarantine affects current child custody schedules. Use the possibility of increased time with children as a point of common ground during co-parenting discussions.