As if going through a divorce isn’t hard enough, this year the complication of a global pandemic that encourages everyone to stay home was thrown into the mix. Many divorce lawyers predict divorce rates will spike post-pandemic once courts are open and operating again. At this point, if a couple is looking to end their marriage, it can be quite complicated, so sticking it out at home is a popular option for the time being.
While this may seem unsettling – and for those going through this, it can be emotionally draining – it is important to focus on what is within your control. Here are some tips to consider when going through a divorce in the age of COVID-19.
If you have decided to end your marriage, taking the time to do as much research as you can be beneficial in the long run. Divorce can be very complex, but it is vital to understand your options when it comes to mediation, attorneys, litigation and if you want to go more of a collaborative route, utilizing a financial advisor, counselor or coach.
Hold virtual meetings
Once you have gathered your research and decided with your spouse how you are going to approach the divorce process – which typically includes each spouse retaining an attorney – you should set up interviews and meetings to make sure you align with everyone you’ve chosen to work on your team. Luckily, by this point, everyone has become pretty well-versed on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms.
Gather important documents
One huge piece of divorce is the financial aspect. You’ll want to gather information on your income, assets and liabilities, including pay statements, tax returns, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, pensions, real estate, car loans, and liabilities (such as mortgages, student loans, car loans and credit card debt). Getting all of these documents organized will save you so much time down the road.
Create or revisit your budget
In most cases, you will probably have a family budget you and your spouse have been following – and you may have even updated it recently because of the pandemic. But, like with any big life event, you must revisit your budget. To do this, you’ll need to have an honest conversation with yourself and your spouse about how much money you will both need to cover essential and discretionary living expenses.
Review living arrangements and parenting plan
If you own a home with your spouse, you will want to consider how your living arrangements may change. Are you keeping the house, or is your spouse? The good news is, even during COVID, real estate transactions are moving forward during this time. So, if you are going to need a new home, start researching your options.
Additionally, if you have children with your spouse, now is the time to discuss how you will separate time with them. Will the children live with one spouse full-time, or split time 50/50, or something in between? If you decide to co-parent, what kind of rules will be in place for managing your family’s risk of contracting COVID-19?
Nail down logistics
There are so many unknowns when it comes to navigating through a divorce – especially during these uncertain times. Even though everyone is spending time at home, if you have children in the house it may be tough to have video conferences and meetings that go uninterrupted, so you should speak with your spouse about staggering your individual meetings. Privacy, at times, will be important while working through this process.
Unfortunately, this “new normal” may be here for a while yet but setting up a process to make your divorce go as smoothly is possible with just a bit of forethought and planning. If you are interested in bringing a financial advisor onto your divorce team, please reach out to us here at Egan Wealth Advisors.