Making the decision to move forward with a divorce can be the most challenging position that you will ever find yourself in. Ending a relationship that has marked an extended period in your life and has likely produced children as well is not something that anyone should take lightly. When the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan counsel clients on divorce we do not approach the topic flippantly or as a matter of routine. We understand how difficult it is to even consider a divorce and want to help in whatever ways that we are able.
An important aspect of divorce planning is always trying to identify those areas where it is possible to anticipate possible problems down the road. People talk about the difference between winning and losing football games is not all about doing additional things well, it’s more about doing fewer things poorly. Basically, you want to make fewer mistakes along the path to your divorce if at all possible. Mistakes in a divorce will cost you time, money and possibly some sanity.
Nobody is going to make an argument that divorces are easy at any time. That is especially true during a pandemic like we are facing right now. The difficulty scale of everything seems to be heightened right now due to health, safety, travel and economic concerns. Your children haven’t been in school for months. You and your spouse may not have stepped into the office for months at this point, either. The routines that we have become accustomed to were thrown out the window in order to prevent our hospitals from becoming overloaded with patients.
Now that we are trudging into a third month of lockdowns and stay at home orders, you may be curious about whether or not getting a divorce is still possible. I can tell you that it is possible and that if that is the step you need to take for your family, you can begin the divorce process right now. Here are some tips on how to do so.
Beginning the divorce process during the COVID-19 pandemic
Let’s start at the beginning. The corona-quarantines could have gone two ways for your marriage if it were on the rocks: 1) the time together in close quarters with your spouse could have rejuvenated or healed your marriage to the point where your relationship is much stronger or 2) the time together in close quarters with your spouse could have further pushed you all down the road towards divorce. For the sake of today’s blog post, while option one is definitely the more preferable choice, let’s assume that you and your spouse are living smack dab in the middle of option two.
If you all are staring down a divorce and have little reason for reconciliation then we have to assume that planning for the divorce comes first. But, wait, you’re telling me. The court houses are closed and the world seems to be shutdown outside the courthouses. Is it even possible to do anything right now associated with a divorce. As you are about to read, yes, there are a number of ways for you to prepare for your divorce that don’t even require you to leave your home.
First, consider getting your life organized. Financial documents will likely be requested by your spouse in the divorce. Tax returns, bank statements, retirement plan statements, paystubs and other financial related documents are all relevant to your divorce. I doubt that you have these itemized and organized right now so you should use any free time you have to start to pull these documents together. The alternative is to have your attorney and their staff help you do so. This will cost you money and time to do it later rather than now.
Next, I would recommend that you go through your home and do an inventory of each room in your house and its contents. Once your divorce has begun your attorney will ask you to fill out a form called an inventory and appraisement. This form requires you to go through all property that you and your spouse own and to assign an estimated value to the property. You will need to turn this form into the judge so he can consider how to divide up your marital estate if called upon to do so.
Don’t just make a list of items, either. You need to review the contents of your home with a camera handy. Take photos of each room from multiple angles. This way if your spouse decides to hide an item or to pretend that a particular item doesn’t exist, you will have photographic evidence to the contrary. If you think that your spouse isn’t capable of being that sneaky- think again. People do not think logically, rationally or fairly much of the time in a divorce. That is just the reality of the situation.
Part of this process naturally involves you doing a bit of self inventory as well, when it comes to the items found in your home. What property could you not do without? What items could you care less about? What items did you think were in a certain location but upon closer examination were found to not be there after all? Figure these things out now before it is too late for you to do anything about it during the divorce. A nice part of doing this now is that you are still thinking clearly and without the added stresses of an active divorce.
Once you have collected all of your relevant financial documents, taken photos of your property and accounted for the property that you want to leave your divorce with then it is time to plan for where you will be living during the divorce. If you have children and plan on the kids staying with you then that adds another dimension to figuring out where you will be living. Do you want to stay in the home? Do you have a place to stay outside of your home that is safe? Start to ponder these things and decide what is best for you and your family.
Next step in the divorce process: talk to an attorney about where to go from here
While collecting as much information as possible is a great idea for now, eventually you will need to contact an attorney to get their perspective on your situation. The fact is, the information that I am providing you with today is relevant to you in a general sense but it is not specific enough for you to make any decisions one way or another. You will need to get an idea about how your particular case fits within the divorce framework in Texas and whether or not you will require the assistance of attorney to help you achieve your goals.
Not every divorce calls for an attorney to be a part of the process. If your divorce does not involve children, a great deal of assets and time is not an issue then you and your spouse may be able to work through your divorce together without lawyers. This assumes, however, that you and your spouse get along and can be amicable during the divorce. Otherwise, even the most “simple” divorce would require assistance from an attorney if you and your spouse cannot stand to be in the same room as one another.
Many attorneys are offering free of charge consultations via phone or video conference right now to talk with you about your divorce. Some attorneys are even beginning to open up their offices and will allow you to come to speak with him or her in person about your case. If it’s free, there is really no downside to talking with an attorney about your case. You can get another person’s perspective on the matter. What’s more, the attorney is someone who has actually dealt with divorce cases and knows how your case is likely to proceed.
While we’re on the subject of attorneys and experience, I would not consider hiring an attorney to represent you in a divorce who has never gone through an entire divorce case from start to finish. Basically, what I am telling you is to avoid inexperienced attorneys and those that are not specifically family law practitioners. You will find that many attorneys in our area will tell you that he or she is comfortable handling a divorce case. However, there is a big difference between an attorney who can handle a divorce and one who actually has.
Move forward with your divorce- despite the coronavirus
Once you come to the conclusion that you need to file for divorce, the next step is to hire an attorney. Be sure that you understand the contract with your attorney before signing up. Ask questions until you are satisfied with how the information has been presented to you. Your attorney will take care of the initial steps of the divorce as far as filing the paperwork and notifying your spouse of the filing.
Let me take a minute to talk with you about co-parenting. This may be a term that you have never heard of before. It is a term that is used with great frequency in a divorce context, however. It basically refers to two parents who are separated or divorced who put aside their differences in order to raise a child. Most divorcing parents can co-parent at least somewhat effectively. However, it takes effort and a willingness to set aside your ego to get there.
In the age of coronavirus, this means ensuring that your child is eating well, getting enough sleep, taking their vegetables and going to the doctor with regularity. It would appear that children (especially younger children) are less susceptible to becoming ill with the coronavirus. Now, I am not a doctor, but you can go through the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the data that they have compiled to verify this. This is great news for families who depend upon possession exchanges in order to make sure both parents have time with their child.
If you have a need to get in front of a judge for a hearing then you may have to wait a while unless your matter is an emergency. Typical temporary orders hearings may not be able to be heard for some weeks due to the courts in Texas being closed. However, this does not mean that you and your spouse cannot attend mediation in an attempt to bypass the courts completely. If you do not want to wait for a hearing and do not want to expose yourself to the possibility of getting sick, it is a good idea to put your best foot forward and be prepared when attending mediation.
Otherwise, keep in mind that you are not alone right now. Many people are in the exact same position that you are when it comes to working towards a divorce during the coronavirus pandemic. The question for you is how are you going to handle the process and the stresses that come along with it. At the end of the day, if you can keep yourself and your family healthy that is a job well done in and of itself. Take advantages of the opportunities to care for yourself and your family as frequently as possibly. Your divorce, like this pandemic, will pass in time.
Questions about getting a divorce during a pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
The law doesn’t take a break just because there’s a pandemic. The processes surrounding getting a divorce in Texas may be modified here and there but the tried and true principles utilized by the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan hold true even now. To speak with one of our attorneys via video or phone at no charge please contact us today. These free of charge consultations are available six days a week and can go a long ways towards helping you learn more about your case and how our office can assist you during this time.