Family Law for Real Housewives: Quarantine Edition

The pandemic has created a myriad of novel family law issues. As a result, couples, lawyers, and judges have endeavored to find viable solutions during these unprecedented times.

Divorce is on the rise. Many couples are spending more time together than ever before. For some families, the extra time together has been a silver-lining. For others, it has caused rifts or exacerbated pre-existing marital difficulties. Notably, I also have heard from several individuals that the pandemic shifted their priorities. They expressed that their marriage was “okay,” but that life is short and they wanted more for their family life going forward.

Finances. One of the leading causes of divorce is money. Many households are operating on a reduced budget and struggling to make ends meet. Furloughs, lay-offs, and salary cuts are widespread. Financial issues driven by the pandemic include, what happens to child support and spousal support that is determined when earnings may be at an all-time low? Who is entitled to a downward modification of support? How do you differentiate between someone asking for a downward modification in good faith versus someone who is trying to take advantage of a temporary situation? These are just some of the many complicated financial issues related to the ongoing crisis.

Parenting Time Re-imagined. Parents currently going through a divorce may opt to make two access schedules – one for during the pandemic and another for after. Those who are already divorced may opt to make temporary modifications to their access schedules in order to better adapt to the current circumstances. In other situations, one parent may have established a temporary residence out-of-town, which rendered a previously existing access schedule unworkable. In addition, remote learning poses another complication, as many parents grapple to balance homeschooling with their own job responsibilities.

Safety matters. There is a broad scope of approaches to safety protocols. Some people go into the office, while others work from home. Some people socialize with friends and family, while others adopt strict social parameters. Some people travel, while others will not stay overnight outside of their home. Some people are in favor of children returning to school, while others prefer remote learning. Some people have their babysitter or housekeeper wear a mask in their home, while others do not require masks indoors. The different approaches to the pandemic can cause major disagreements in a divorcing or divorced couple, where the actions of one can impose health consequences on an entire family.

A Trip To The Altar. On a positive note, the pandemic has caused some people to re-examine their relationships and propelled their decision to marry. Before walking down the aisle, it is important to consider a prenuptial agreement. Keep in mind that the wait for marriage licenses may be longer than usual, so factor in enough time.

Stay well and stay safe!