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Are Divorce Rates and Custody Issues Linked to COVID-19?

One of the questions that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have been receiving quite a bit lately is whether or not there has been A noticeable relationship between the pandemic and increases in the frequency with which child custody and divorce cases are filed. I think that it may still be too soon to tell whether or not there is a noticeable relationship. However, from my experience I can tell you that it is stressful situations that more often bring about family law cases. 

This should be a pretty logical point to make. In general, when things are going smoothly in your house and you and your spouse are getting along with one another it is less likely that you would file for divorce than if You two were fighting with one another and unable to parents are children as a team. Likewise, if you and your co-parent are getting along in your post-divorce life together then a child custody case where a modification or an enforcement is sought will be less likely. 

In regard to the pandemic that we are all living through it is no secret that just about all of us are feeling more stressed and more at wit’s end than we were even a few months ago. The mentality of the people who are constantly under assault from a virus must be similar to those people who have lived through wars and things of that nature. Not only that, but we are in an unfortunate situation Where we are being inundated with negative news on a near constant basis and are confined to our homes. Many of us don't even have the option to seek distractions from the pandemic by going outside, traveling or engaging in any kind of recreation. The news, I'm sad to say, has become recreation for many Americans and many people in our state as well. 

In today's blog post, I would like to share with you my perspective on How is pandemic may ultimately impact the rates with which child custody and divorce cases are filed. Family law attorneys can Measure over the course of time when it is more likely that a case will be filed depending upon the month of the year. For example, many family law attorneys will tell you that divorces are more common in the beginning part of a year once the Holidays have passed us by. Will similar trends occur after this pandemic is over? 

Something needs to be wrong, seriously wrong, if a family law case is to be filed 

for the most part, if you become involved in a Texas family law case it is only after a major problem has developed in your life. Very few people that I know file for divorce or initiate a child custody case unless there is a serious problem in the home. If you are annoyed at how your spouse choose his dinner that is not likely to be the pretext for a divorce. By the same token, if you are ex-spouse drops your kids off after each visitation session 5 or 10 minutes late every time that will not likely lead to an enforcement case. 

This reality is like anything else that we observe in our day-to-day lives. If a problem is minor, then we probably will not seek care or remedy very quickly. If you were to wake up with a sore back on a Monday, your first thought probably would not be to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon on a Tuesday. Rather, the back pain would probably have needed to increase in severity and duration for you to be even considering medical intervention. I think that's just human nature being what it is. We will overlook a problem and hope it goes away on its own If the problem is small enough. However, when a problem gets to be a significant hindrance in our lives it is then that we are more willing to step out and take action to remedy the situation. 

Family law attorneys see this phenomenon happening in our practices all the time. Rather than Dealing with a problem when it is relatively small a family will let a minor issue fester until it grows into a major problem. At that point, the major problem cannot be dealt with on any meaningful level by two parents or two co-parents. Once the problem grows it becomes more significant only hey court can seemingly solve the issue one way or the other. A penny’s worth of prevention is worth a pound’s worth of cure, as the old saying goes. The same can be said when applied to Texas family law cases.

So, if we are talking about how to avoid the need to file for divorce or file a child custody case in the wake of the pandemic, I would tell you to address the problem directly with the other party as quickly as you are able to. I understand that not everyone has the tools in their toolbox to deal with difficult interpersonal communication issues or other family matters all that well. However, if your goal is to avoid having to file a family lawsuit it is best for you to try to make do with the skills that you have in to address the problem on whatever level you are able to. 

Consider the different stress points brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic 

there are many stress points associated with this virus that are not unique to these times. One of the unique parts of this virus, however, is that we are more concerned now with our health than in normal times. Even in typical stressful times we are not overly concerned with our health. There may be other more valid concerns to be aware of but our actual health on a daily basis is likely not going to be one of those concerns. That is not the case with this pandemic. We're all very aware of the risks associated with the virus and are aware of how to reduce the spread of it. 

If you and your family are living in a post-divorce world where you are trying to navigate the pandemic and ensure that family court orders are followed then it is possible that you have run into issues with your Co parent regarding the health and safety of your child during this time. It should not come as much of a shock that many co-parents feel that the other parent in their child's life is not doing enough to protect that child from illness. To be fair, this was likely a concern prior to the start of the pandemic. However, now that we are in the teeth of the curve in this part of the world it is more likely than not that you're concerns in this area have become especially heightened. 

So, if your co-parent has been wrongfully denying you time with your child or is attempting to place restrictions on the activities that you engage in with your child during your periods of possession that is a stress point that may lead to a child custody case in the future. Again, during normal times the desire to take your child on a trip or to the beach during your periods of possession would likely not be a big deal. However, when many people are alarmed at any degree of socializing then That sort of behavior could become worrisome and a point of stress. You need to be able to gauge the situation for yourself and address problems regarding health and safety every child before moving forward with an activity. 

Money woes and financial stresses 

now we can discuss some of the non-health related stresses that may bring about an increase in the divorce and child custody case filing rates in our area. On top of the already mentioned health risks associated with the virus, we have seen some pretty steady hits to our economy in terms of job losses. Not only has the national economy taken a hit since the beginning of this pandemic but our local economy, especially in the oil and gas industry, has been hit especially hard. With fewer people able and willing to travel there has been a sharp decline in the need for petroleum products. Fewer wells being drilled means fewer people needing to work on oil rigs. There is also a ripple effect into other industries associated with oil and gas in our area. 

All in all, this has been a rough time for many of us from a financial perspective. Even if you haven't lost your job completely you may have had your hours reduced do too an inability to keep many businesses and offices open during this pandemic. In the event that you have lost your income, either in full or in park, you will likely have experienced problems in paying your household bills and meeting the obligations set forth in any family court orders. The area that I am thinking about in particular is related to child support. If you are responsible for paying child support, then you want to pay attention to the last section of today's blog post.

The trouble with having the responsibility to pay child support is that the responsibility is not a one-time thing that goes away after a short period of time. Rather, child support is like the waves at the beach: they keep coming. If you get knocked down once by the inability to pay child support and you cannot quickly gather yourself and find a steady stream of income you will be knocked over again and again and again. Your former divorce attorney in the family court judge are not going to be keeping an eye out for you to make sure that your income is sufficient to pay the bills. 

If you find yourself in a position where you cannot financially meet your obligations to pay child support, then you need to take proactive measures to reduce the risk that these missed payments could lead to a child support case. I would first recommend that you speak directly to your co-parent and bring him or her up to speed on your income situation. If you take these steps it is much more likely that you can avoid becoming a person who is forced to defend him or herself in a child support enforcement case. Again, a pennies worth of prevention is worth a pound's worth of cure. 

The benefit of talking with your co-parent immediately about problems and paying child support is that you can avoid any misunderstandings, miscommunications or surprises when a child support payment is not sent at the 1st of the month. Generally speaking, people do not like surprises. People especially do not like surprises where they are not paid money they expect to be paid. There are many options available to co-parents who are willing to work together on issues related to child support. You may be able to work out a payment plan once you are able to locate replacement employment. Even if you are only able to work a number of part time jobs or if you are able to make partial payments for a period time it is better to do this rather than fall farther and farther behind. If you fall too far behind in paying child support, you not only increase the likelihood of having to be involved in a child custody case, but you decrease your chances of ever being able to pay in full your child support obligation. 

Questions about the material contained in this blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in this blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in our office, over the phone and via video. We value the opportunity to speak with you about your circumstances and to talk with you about how our office can best serve your needs as a client of ours. 

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