Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic I don't think there is a single area of any of our lives that is not been affected by the virus. It may be that the virus has not personally impacted your health or that of your family but the various shutdowns and stayed home orders have led to a great deal of change in our society. Your work, your leisure time, and even the time that you spend with your family has been affected probably in a negative way. We have all had to learn to adapt to these changes in order to make the best of the circumstances.
As a family law attorney, I have had the experience during the last four months of learning how people in our community just like you have dealt with situations involving their family and the law. Specifically, the changes we have seen in the family courts since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic are the most significant in terms of forcing ourselves to adapt to changing circumstances. While the laws themselves have not changed since the beginning of the pandemic how these laws are administered and how the individual processes have changed is something that is relevant to discuss.
In Harris County, there are currently three family law courts that are open and holding hearings. This is about a 20% open rate as far as how many courts are typically available to hear cases. While most divorces do not and in a trial your case may require a hearing of some sort along the line. Your ability to get before a judge for a hearing has been impacted by the coronavirus. Whether or not the coronavirus would affect your divorce depends on the specific factors involved in your case and the willingness of you and your spouse to work together to achieve an equitable result in your case.
Working together with your spouse could mean the diminishing impact of the virus on your case
As I mentioned earlier in today's blog post, most divorces in Texas do not finish in a trial. While it is possible that your case could be the exception that proves this rule, it is much more likely that you and your spouse would settle your case either in informal settlement negotiation or an mediation. Mediation is a process whereby you and your spouse would select an experienced family law mediator to help you negotiate the settlement terms of your case or you could choose to attend a mediation through the county where you live.
Mediation allows you and your spouse to bring in a competent and experienced party who is independent and is motivated to help you and your spouse avoid going to see a judge in your case. The benefits of mediation are that you and your spouse are able to take control of the settlement terms of your case and dictate the future for you, your children and your family. This is undoubtedly a good thing during times that are as uncertain as the ones we're living in right now.
Consider how difficult it will be not only to wait for a trial date with the judge in your case but to trust that that judge is going to be able to make decisions that are best for you and your children after a trial that will be probably one or two days at most. It is unrealistic to think that that judge will be able to develop a working knowledge of your family sufficient to make decisions that will be in everyone's best interest. Even the most committed indulgent family court judge will only learn a small percentage of the information necessary to make a good decision in regard to your case.
Rather than submit yourself to the judgment of a family court judge you will not get an opportunity to learn near enough about your family, you and your spouse should take advantage of every opportunity you get during this pandemic to work together to create settlement terms that will work best for yourselves and your children. You all are much better equipped to create terms that are fair, flexible and clear so that your family does not suffer from uncertainty and instability in the future.
You should make known to your attorney early on near divorce of your intention to work with your soon to be ex-spouse on negotiating fair settlement terms to your case your attorney's job is to help you accomplish your goals by providing advice in context for you in your case. Remember, that while your attorney doesn't live your life, he or she has seen many people in your position live theirs. As a result, you should listen to your attorney as much as possible and to take their advice whenever practical.
Your attorney is able to reach out to the opposing lawyer in order to determine whether or not a settlement is going to be possible in your case. For the most part spouses are typically willing to work with one another in order to accomplish goals associated with your divorce. Their idea of what is fair or just in the divorce may differ from yours at the beginning but a willingness to participate in negotiation process is essential. You can always work on the specifics of your agreement down the line. However, an unwillingness to work with one another to settle your case may mean a longer and more expensive divorce. This is especially true during the coronavirus pandemic.
If you ask me, this is the most significant way that you and your spouse can minimize the impacts of the coronavirus on your case. Your family may have specific concerns dealing with the pandemic and its potential effects on a long-term basis but in a general sense what we know right now is that the pandemic has closed many courts and made life generally speaking more difficult for people participating in the legal process. However, you can mitigate those difficulties by working directly with your spouse to come up with temporary and final orders on your own without the need to consult with a judge.
Selecting the right attorney can help you accomplish your goals and divorce even during the pandemic
it is always interesting to look at web sites which list homes for sale and rent in our area. If you do that with any regularity like I do you will come to find out that some houses are listed for sale and then have multiple offers for purchase within a fairly short period of time. Still others, even ones that are very similar in quality, will go without offers for a very long time. On the surface there would seem to be no logical explanation for this. However, I believe that the people who are selling each house can have a direct influence on the marketability their home simply by selecting the right realtor.
A realtor acts like an attorney in the area of selling homes. That realtor is duty bound to put the interests of the home seller or buyer before their own and to do what is best for their client. An attorney functions in the same way in a family law case. Selecting the right attorney is just as important as selecting the right realtor. Some Realtors work tirelessly to market their homes in order to help their client complete a sale. Other realtors do not put forth near the effort and their clients suffer with a lack of offers for their home as a result.
Selecting the right family law attorney for you can leave you with a similar experience. If you drive up and down the streets of Houston, you will see advertisements and signs for attorneys of all sorts. Many of these attorneys will be happy to take your divorce case for a fee. However, keep in mind that very few of these attorneys represent family log clients on a consistent basis and even fewer of them have experience handling family law matters of any kind of variety.
The reason for this is that many attorneys feel that they are capable of handling a divorce without ever actually having done a divorce from start to finish before when you are interviewing attorneys it will be interesting to find out whether or not the attorney you are talking to has ever actually represented a family law client before. While there is nothing wrong with the getting a start in a field of work, I would not recommend allowing you and your family to be another attorneys guinea pig. This is no different than allowing you and your family to be a Realtors Guinea pig when he or she is attempting to sell their first home.
My recommendation would be to interview and speak to attorneys who practice only in family law when you were looking for a divorce attorney. Just like with any line of work there are subtleties and finer points of family law that attorneys who do not practice in this area primarily would not know about. I could say the same thing about probate law, elder law, real estate law or any line of work for that matter. Experience matters in any time, but especially matters in times like we're living in right now.
Take the time to talk to your attorney about their experience handling family law cases. Ask questions about difficult clients and scenarios and how that attorney handled them. Find out whether or not the attorney has ever tried a divorce case and what the result was. If the attorney cannot give you straight answers about their experience handling divorces or does not seem committed to representing you through the end of your case then you ought to find an attorney who's willing to work with you and advocate for your rights more strongly.
Closing thoughts on the coronavirus and its potential impact on your Texas divorce
it is impossible to say just how strongly an impact the coronavirus will have on you and your divorce case. From my perspective, the relationship that you have with your attorney as well as your willingness to negotiate and work with your ex-spouse are even more important right now than in prior months. when you cannot rely on the courts to provide you with an opportunity to have hearings then the pressure on you and your spouse to work together to create your own agreements mounts.
Fortunately for you, you have the ability to chart the course for your case. If you can be clear with your attorney about your expectations for your case, then you have a much better chance of achieving the goals that you have set out for yourself. It is silly to allow your case to take shape without your direct involvement in it. If you take responsibility over your case is outcome and do not rely on your spouse or their attorney to drive the process you can create an equitable conclusion to your case without having to rely on the courts.
Family law courts exist as backup plans to you and your spouse being able to create your own conclusions and chart your own future together. If you want to minimize distractions and potential problems associated with the coronavirus, I recommend that you focus your attention on selecting the right representative for you and putting aside your differences while negotiating with your spouse.
Questions about divorce during the pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations in person, over the phone and via video. Our staff and attorneys take a great deal of pride in serving our community and we look forward to the opportunity to meet with you to discuss your case and your circumstances.