When parties initiate the divorce process, there are certain major issues that need to be addressed in coming to a final agreement. These issues include the distribution of property and debt, support (spousal and child, if applicable), health insurance, and custody and parenting arrangements. With the Coronavirus affecting many areas of daily life, some of these common divorce issues may become more complicated as parties work through divorce negotiations.
For most people, normal everyday life has been disrupted by the Coronavirus. These disruptions and the changes they have caused may need to be addressed as part of a divorce settlement. Differences in risk tolerance and the response to COVID protocols may need to be addressed in the negotiation. Reactions to the pandemic may heighten sensitivities and may need to be negotiated through a neutral facilitator. The following list represents some common issues that may have implications due to the Coronavirus.
Maintenance and/or child support:
Although there are certain guidelines set by states related to spousal and child support, parties often come to alternative arrangements that meet the needs of their family. During the Coronavirus outbreak, employment for many people has been interrupted, reduced or converted to virtual work at home. In some cases, individuals are relying on unemployment and/or government-funded stimulus loans to maintain their job/business. While this may be temporary, it has an immediate and long-term effect on finances. As parties negotiate support payments and schedules, this may need to be taken into account when creating an agreement.
Life Insurance and Health Insurance:
Depending on the parties’ ages and other factors, insurance coverage and payouts may be affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. In many agreements, life insurance is used to ensure the family has sufficient resources if one party passes away. Depending on the coverage currently in place, along with other factors, these types of provisions need careful attention and may require careful analysis. .
Continuation of adequate health insurance and the related cost also needs to be included in the cost benefit analysis made by each family. Out of pocket costs for therapy and other services need to be reviewed and addressed as part of the divorce process. These costs can be substantial and impact available cash moving forward.
For parties with children, coming to an agreement around parenting time may be more challenging during the Coronavirus pandemic. More than ever, the type of occupation that a parent has may affect how often that parent is able to see the child. For example, medical professionals are working extended hours on a routine basis to help combat the virus. This may impact time with their children and the need for alternative parenting arrangements or childcare. However, once those schedules return to normal, there is a reasonable expectation that these parents are able to spend more time with the children. Additionally, with most children now attending school on a virtual basis, and parents working on a virtual basis as well, the parents may need to decide who is better equipped to spend time with the children during the day. It is difficult to estimate when life will return to normal in terms of attending school and work. Many parents consider an objective basis as a benchmark that determines changes in parenting access such as data and information provided by New York State. There are many options for each family in determining its response to the pandemic. In my own practice, my experience is that Individuals willing to work together cooperatively are able to reach an agreement using a virtual platform that fits their needs and the unique needs of their family even though their separation and divorce is taking place during the COVID pandemic.