Has the COVID-19 quarantine and economic turmoil brought to light that your marriage may be beyond repair?
Are you mentally and physically social distancing from your spouse more than necessary?
Or perhaps you were in the midst of a divorce and the virus has upended the process, as the courts are currently closed (hearing only emergency family matters).
These are unprecedented times and it’s important to know your options – including that you can move forward with actions toward your divorce during this time.
Here are four tips to help you through this global, yet personal time of crisis:
- Educate yourself about the divorce process and available resources.
- Identify all of your assets and debts.
- Negotiate personal time and space within your shared home.
- Seek out professional support and guidance.
1️⃣ All About Divorce
Vesta: Redefining Divorce provides the tools you need to navigate all of the stages of your divorce process – before, during, and after.
Vesta events provide education, connection, and empowerment, as our expert professionals guide individuals and couples through their divorce options.
Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, Vesta’s seminars and workshops were in-person events; today, all of the offerings are webinars are available at no cost and can be attended anonymously. Topics covered include legal, financial, real estate, career, and personal wellness concerns.
Most divorce mediators are continuing to work online with couples, helping them to negotiate the terms of their current separation.
Many couples assume they need to hire an attorney to secure a judge’s orders to start the divorce process, but that’s no longer the case. Most couples who mediate in California are self-represented; the mediator files all their paperwork and they never step foot in the courthouse. Everything they negotiate is formalized into a Marital Settlement Agreement and that Agreement becomes the terms of their Divorce Judgment. You can still hire a divorce attorney to work with you in a consulting role, and you will not have to wait for the courthouses to open again to negotiate the terms of your divorce.
Continuing to live together after you decide to separate can lead to a disagreement over the date of your separation. In California, the date of separation signifies the end of the community, which has potential financial consequences. If you are working with a mediator you can bring certainty to your date of separation and avoid a costly legal argument.
2️⃣ Assets and Debts
You will have to submit full financial disclosures as part of your divorce. Why wait?
You can start with a complete accounting of your assets and debts and share it with one another now. These include but are not limited to cash, IRAs, stocks, antiques, art, your home (valued using Comparative Market Analysis) and other real estate, businesses, unused vacation or sick leave, frequent flyer miles, insurance policies, income tax refunds, credit card balances, and loans.
If you do not understand your finances, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) can help you. If you doubt your spouse’s honesty, there are forensic accountants who can be retained to investigate financial information to ensure that all assets are accounted for and protected, and to analyze the tax implications from asset division.
3️⃣ Personal Time and Space at Home
The situation with COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, so it’s best to stay home. This may mean that your situation at home may be more precarious, especially if you are still sharing your home with your soon-to-be-ex.
You can establish fresh boundaries and provide each other with more breathing room even though you may be living in the same home during this pandemic.
Set up a schedule so that you leave the house for walks, errands, or other essential services at different times. Build-in your work (if you are working from home) and or quiet time, so that your spouse knows you are on “do not disturb.”
If you have children at home, plan separate parent-child time activities to reduce the need for togetherness, and even plan chores and tasks to keep the home as peaceful as possible.
4️⃣ Professional Support and Guidance
Everyone is under a great deal of stress right now due to COVID-19.
If you are going through a divorce in addition to the daily woes of the pandemic, life can be particularly challenging.
You may have just learned of your spouse’s affair, discovered emergency funds have been squandered, or can’t meet the daily requirements of homeschooling and parenting plus a full-time job. Now is the time to focus on keeping your home safe.
Make it your goal to manage your emotions rather than those of your spouse; and if need be, reach out for therapeutic support by phone or video conferencing.
Divorce coaches can help you map out a plan to leave your marriage financially and emotionally intact. Vesta can provide you with information on divorce coaches and therapists in your area.
➡️ Bonus Tips
More jokes have been made about gaining the COVID-19, yet good nutrition is essential for your entire family to support the body’s immune system and aid in recovery. Include lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables in your balanced diet for optimal infection prevention and healing.
Now is a great time to establish family dinners, cook with kids, and develop your favorite quarantine comfort food recipes.
In good times or in bad, making a plan to take care of yourself is paramount.
Practicing mindfulness, meditation, and/or yoga can help you to relax and find inner peace. You need to press pause on everything swirling around you and take advantage of this time to practice deep breathing, indulge in warm baths, and create your own spa experience.
As a human race, we have survived outbreaks of viruses and other diseases. We have recovered from recessions and depressions. Couples have been getting divorced for centuries.
You can emerge from this challenge happier, stronger, and better informed about the life ahead of you.
Laura McGee, J.D. is a Divorce Mediator with Vesta’s Carlsbad, CA Hub who offers a cost-conscious, conflict-managed high integrity divorce process. A former trial attorney, Laura started her training as a mediator in 1998, but it was her own costly divorce that inspired her to establish her divorce mediation practice “Leave Strong Divorce Services.” Laura not only mediates over 60 divorces a year she also teaches mediation trainings and mentors new mediators. Laura’s skills, professional training, life experience combined with her gift for helping others to communicate through conflict have made her a very sought after mediator. You can find Laura online at Leavestrong.com.