Thanks to the global Pandemic, the process of getting divorced has considerably slowed. Status dates and hearings continue to get bumped into future months and the impending uncertainty makes it difficult to finalize many matters. While the Courts have essentially evolved overnight in terms of “virtually” addressing divorce matters, the natural resulting backlog of pending matters, especially those of a complex nature, continue to mount. When the shelter in place orders are lessened or eliminated, there is bound to be a large influx of divorce matters coming into the system. Unfortunately, a lot of the old and new cases are likely to come to a head at the same time. What might this mean for someone that is contemplating divorce but feels stuck and does not know the next best step?
Divorce is typically not a quick or simple process and the mere filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is only one (small) aspect of moving the ball forward. In fact, some of the best divorces (meaning child focused, amicable and lower legal expense) do not even have an actual divorce action on file until a full agreement is reached. Essentially the only way to have one of these “best divorces” is a lot of pre-planning on the part of parties and their respective counsel.
The act of filing for divorce and serving the other party in and of itself can be quite provocative. Obtaining counsel that understands the nuances of this (in)action can make or break your entire divorce process and it can not only mean the difference of tens of thousands of dollars, but can have a startling impact on your children.
The other big decision to make is the process you are ultimately going to utilize for the divorce. Options to consider include Mediation, Collaborative Divorce or traditional litigation? To explore the first two alternatives, find counsel that really understands these out of court resolution processes. Depending on the issues, you may also benefit from divorce coaches, parenting specialists, business valuation experts, lifestyle experts, appraisers or the like. Assembling the proper team can take a good amount of time and should be well thought out. Ideally, litigation should be the last resort but hiring counsel that understands and is capable of handling litigation may also be very important.
Regardless of the process you choose, it can take weeks if not longer to pull together the necessary data for both parties to be in the best position to negotiate an appropriate deal on the finances as well as the parenting. After the information is assembled, it needs to be analyzed and options need to be creatively created. Especially if privately-owned businesses, complicated assets or the need for (forensic) tracings are in play, data collection and analysis can also take many months.
There is also the function of time. There are instances when the divorce process moves too fast and it is later determined that the “wounds” needed a bit more air. Had the divorce process been allowed more time during which the parties could have had an opportunity to try things out and see how the changes were actually impacting the children or the family, they may have avoided further problems down the road. Having a plan in place which allows necessary time for trial and error can be extremely beneficial. Finally, one helpful way for both parties to have a say in their outcome is for them to both hire counsel that know how to work together for everyone’s benefit.
There are a myriad of time-consuming and important steps to the divorce process. Waiting until the dust settles on the Pandemic may not be the best option for you. Choosing the right counsel and the right process and spending time putting together a proper plan may save a lot of time and headache in the long run. Best of luck to you as you navigate this fast-changing world.