How COVID-19 May Change Your Divorce Arrangements
Could the Coronavirus Affect Divorce Plans?
According to the United Nations, there has been a “horrifying surge” in domestic violence as calls to help lines have doubled during the coronavirus pandemic. The stress of being trapped at home all day while dealing with economic and health concerns has put many in tense situations, especially in cases where people are in the process of leaving a partner. Things might seem grim, but there is still hope for those who are dealing with divorce.
Leaving Your Partner During the Pandemic
If your relationship has already been shaky, the sad reality is that the COVID-19 outbreak may be the final straw that pushes you toward divorce. However, leaving is easier said than done when you are stuck at home 24/7. Keep in mind that you are allowed to leave your home and move in with family members if needed. Real estate agents are also still operating, so it is possible to find another place to live if you are financially prepared.
If your partner is abusive, your safety is the main concern. Leaving is often the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence, so you should not alert your partner to your plans until you have a safe place to go. This can be tricky since many shelters are closed, and it is hard to call friends for help when your abuser is always with you. However, police are still assisting with violent crimes, so you can call the cops if you fear for your safety. For more help in dealing with domestic violence during coronavirus, you may want to get domestic violence assistance. There are many potentially helpful options, including the following:
- Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
- Use SafeHorizon’s online chat.
- Get information on child care and housing by calling the Women’s Referral Central Hotline at 1-800-322-8092.
- Speak to the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault at 1-800-601-7200.
Handling Court Dates and Lawyer Meetings
So, what should you do if you are in the middle of a divorce and were supposed to attend court, meet with your Bergen County divorce lawyer, or speak to a mediator? Currently, the New Jersey stay-at-home order states that law firms can only operate when employees are working from home. This means that your meetings with your legal team have most likely shifted to phone calls and emails instead of in-office consultations. New Jersey has also stated that child support and other family court proceedings will continue, but they should be conducted via video conferencing or phone whenever possible. Therefore, you should not assume that court dates have been canceled. Your divorce may still be proceeding, so you should check with your lawyer and local courthouse to see how you should handle this. Coronavirus will not completely halt your divorce, but it may delay things a little. Some ways that the pandemic can delay your divorce include the following:
- Communication is more difficult now, so reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement with your ex might take more time.
- Government offices are overwhelmed by the increased amount of people needing assistance with divorces, child support, and child custody.
- You may find it hard to reach agreements about finances when you or your ex has lost a job.
- Selling a home to split assets is more difficult.
- The added pressure of home schooling children means you have less time to discuss problems with your ex.
Following Child Custody Arrangements
Following local stay-at-home orders is important, but they do not supersede child custody arrangements. You are still legally required to follow any arrangements in place. If you and your partner are still relatively amicable, you are allowed to mutually agree on temporarily altering child custody to let your child stay with one parent full time. If you agree to change custody, make sure you get their agreement in writing via text or email so that you can show you have their permission. These informal agreements will not permanently alter custody arrangements after the lockdown ends.Things can get trickier if your ex is not open to altering your child custody arrangements. However, this does not mean you are stuck if you feel your current agreement puts your child in danger. Here are some things you can do to handle the challenges of coronavirus and child custody.
- Schedule meetings with a mediator to help you and your ex agree.
- Ask your lawyer to carefully look over your arrangement and let you know what you can do.
- Begin the legal process of asking for a hearing to modify child custody.
- Consider giving up your own custody to reduce the risk of your child traveling.
- Involve the law if your child is being abused or otherwise endangered.
Remember that it is important not to commit any child custody violations, like fleeing to another region with your child. Once the courts are operating again, that could potentially affect future arrangements. These unprecedented times might change how courts handle parents breaking child custody agreements, but most attorneys agree that is unlikely. Generally, courts tend to reduce child custody for a parent who breaks current arrangements unless the parent can show their actions were in the best interest of the child.
Making Sure You Get Child Support
The unexpected shutdowns due to COVID-19 have greatly altered many families’ financial plans. Child support may be impacted through one or more of the following ways:
- New Jersey has quit accepting cash payments for child support.
- The person paying support may have lost their job and be struggling to find the funds.
- There may be confusion about whether child support is still owed if custody arrangements have changed.
If you rely on child support to care for your family, there are still regulations in place to help you get this support. If the person paying child support has lost their job or taken full custody, you should not automatically assume that child support will end. Even when a person’s circumstances change, they are still legally required to follow child support rulings until the court modifies their agreement. You may need to be a little more patient about getting your child support payments due to bureaucratic delays. It can be tough to wait for child support when your family needs money, but remember that your ex might also be dealing with financial challenges. Families that try to keep things amicable and remain flexible during these times can ensure that the needs of children are better met. If your child support is not coming in a timely manner, you can call the New Jersey Family Support Services Center for assistance. They are having extremely long call-wait times, so you may want to schedule your call carefully.
Getting Valuable Legal Assistance
Navigating the complexities of divorce is even trickier during this global health crisis. That’s why you need a Bergen County divorce lawyer on your side. At the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco, we provide caring and supportive representation throughout these difficult times. Call us at (201) 343-0078 in Hackensack or fill out our online contact form to speak to our legal team today.