Did COVID-19 Affect My Divorce Agreement? – The State of Family Law as the World Reopens

The COVID-19 Pandemic affected everyone in some way. Whether you lost someone close or lost your job, there was no shortage of misfortune suffered. If you pursued a divorce prior to the pandemic or began thinking of one during the pandemic, you may wonder if there were any direct effects on payments, the process, or your visitation rights. Read on to learn more about;

  • Property Division and the Effect of the Economy’s Downturn; 
  • Seeing Your Child and Providing Them Care During the Pandemic; and
  • Paying Child Support Post-CARES Act. 

 

Property Division

The markets took a hit during COVID and needed to recover. Understandably, this also had an effect on the value of property; financial assets, real estate, retirement benefits all entered a zone of uncertainty once the economy began trending downwards. 

In many cases, this was more than enough reason for a couple to suspend any divorce proceedings until property distribution could happen on equal footing. Cases of cheating a partner out of an equitable division are less prominent as laws exist to deter divorcees from it, but not knowing the exact value of the property may leave some unwanted wiggle room. 

 

Now that things are opening back up, it may be time to start reconsidering your options. Some economic factors will take a while to change, but some are much more negotiable. Mediation, an easier route to divorce we have written about in the past, may be your best bet for resolving issues with property distribution. With the help of a neutral third-party mediator, you can work together with your spouse to figure out the value of your property such that both of you reach an equitable solution. 

If you still want to wait to start any official talks, you can still try and be proactive ahead of your divorce with or without your spouse. In amicable situations, working with your spouse to iron out an agreement in writing over how you plan on dividing property sets a strong precedent for the future and may save you some time. Additionally, if you are wary of a spouse potentially hiding, gifting, or spending assets ahead of property division, maybe consider sitting down and making a firm list of assets under the umbrella of your shared marital property. The same can be done with documents, like bank or loan statements. 

 

Child Custody and Visitation Rights

Unlike the previous section, we will be looking at post-divorce life in our section on custody and visitation. Though in the United States lockdowns are a thing of the past, catching and spreading COVID is still a relevant concern for most. 

Especially relevant in custody cases nowadays is the topic of vaccinations. With government health agencies rolling out COVID vaccines for children, there is a chance two parents may disagree on whether their child should get it. 

 

Of course, courts make the distinction between legal and physical custody—where a parent with legal custody has the right to make an essential decision for the child, and physical refers to where the child lives. This does not mean one parent will get one or the other type of custody. It usually isn’t so black-and-white, barring extenuating circumstances. 

That being said, you should talk with your ex-spouse when it comes to issues relating to vaccinations. If you both have disagreements, you may want to consider mediation. If not, it might be time to bring the conversation to a medical professional. Since your child’s best interests still matter, it would be against their best interest to have them live an inconsistent lifestyle, meaning if, with one parent, they are in school and with the other, they are out. Vaccine mandates in school may become a factor in the decision of whether your child should be vaccinated, so prepare if you foresee being at odds with your ex-spouse in these regards. 

 

Child Support 

As we mentioned, the economy’s decline during the pandemic put widespread financial stress on many people: so much so the U.S. Legislature passed the CARES Act to provide stimulus and unemployment payment to millions in need. Eligible taxpayers received up to $1,200 if their gross income was less than $99,000, but those who owed child support payments likely did not see this transferred directly into their hands. Rather, the funds were taken to cover any missed or owed child support payments

The government stated from the get-go the purpose of these emergency stimulus checks were to help pay rent, pay other utility bills, and cover any outstanding debts. Therefore, child support applied and applies in these cases.

 

As stimulus and unemployment programs end, it is important to take a look at your financial situation and judge whether you’ll be able to pay child support without assistance. If you have been relying on weekly or monthly payments to cover child support, you should contact your ex-spouse and seek a temporary modification until you can pay

A modification is possible if a court approves it, and to do that, you must show proof of a reduction in your income and that you are searching for a job. As the country opens back up, you may have a better opportunity now than you did during the pandemic to find a job. 

 

You may also find help from Maryland’s Child Support Administration, which handles all payments and receipts in the state. Typically, they will assign you a caseworker in the process of filing a divorce to help determine the amount you owe. They are also there to help with any further renegotiation that may come in a divorce. 

If you are looking to start the divorce process or need representation post-divorce, contact our offices for a free initial consultation. We experienced the pandemic too. Our lawyers know how to handle a wide variety of family law circumstances and will get you the help you need to mitigate your issues. Take a hit during the pandemic? Stand up and take your next steps with us by getting in touch with one of our attorneys.