Shortly after governors across the country began issuing stay-at-home orders, the jokes began — how will my marriage survive being with my spouse 24/7? For some people, these weren’t just jokes. The pandemic may have revealed difficulties that were always present in a relationship, or even caused new fissures.
Whether you have been considering divorce for quite some time or have just now made the decision, you can still file for divorce in Ohio during the pandemic. There are some unique issues that may arise while we are also social distancing — such as the need to hold court hearings electronically. In addition, some factors in a typical divorce may be made more complex, such as the division of assets due to the economic realities of the current situation.
If you are ready to file for divorce, a Cleveland divorce lawyer can help. Starting with a free phone or video consultation, your attorney can guide you through the process.
How the Pandemic Is Affecting Relationships
As coronavirus has spread across the globe, its impact on marriages has been significant. Forced to spend more time together than they may have spent in years, many couples have found that their relationship wasn’t as healthy or strong as they originally thought. In some cases, quarantines exposed difficulties that already existed in a relationship.
In China, the divorce rate began to rise as soon as quarantine orders lifted in March. Cities throughout China have reported record numbers of divorce filings, with couples lined up to submit their filings.
In the United States, experts predict a similar spike in divorces — both during the pandemic and in its aftermath. Couples who are home together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week may come to realize that their relationship simply doesn’t work. Many divorce lawyers are reporting a significant increase in the number of consultations that they are doing during this time.
Can You Still File for Divorce in Ohio?
Despite the stay-at-home order in place in Ohio, you can still file for divorce at this time. Although courts throughout the state have implemented safety procedures, they remain open for new filings. Whether you have already filed for divorce or want to start a new filing, you will be able to move forward with your divorce.
The Ohio Supreme Court has recommended that all local courts minimize physical appearances at court, which may include taking steps such as holding hearings over videoconferencing. In Cuyahoga County, the courts are open for in-person filings, but are encouraging individuals to use the e-filing system when possible. The domestic relations court is limiting face-to-face business to essential matters, with an order to use technology when possible for non-essential matters.
In essence, this means that you can still start a divorce, ideally using the online filing system. In most cases, any court hearings in your case will be held electronically. If you have a contested trial set for April or May, the judge may continue that trial to a later date. Your case may take longer than it otherwise would because of issues related to coronavirus, but you can still file for and obtain a divorce at this time.
Under Ohio’s order, legal services are considered essential. While many law firms are working remotely, you can still schedule a video conference or telephone call with a member of our team. You may also choose to start gathering necessary documentation (such as financial statements) while you are staying at home.
How Does Coronavirus Impact Common Issues in Divorce Cases?
Divorce can be complicated. Even when both spouses agree to the divorce, issues regarding property division, child custody and support, and alimony may still rise. The COVID-19 pandemic may add an extra layer of complexity.
In most divorces, finances play a major role, both in terms of property division and the payment of spousal support. With the stock market in a free fall, the value of assets such as retirement and investment accounts may have significantly decreased. As a result, the way that this type of property is divided may be different than it would be if their value remained steady or increased.
Along the same lines, the value of a small business or even a family home may have dropped significantly as a result of the pandemic. This can complicate the division of assets and may make it incredibly difficult to sell a home or a business right now.
Similarly, millions of Americans are currently unemployed or are facing reduced hours due to the pandemic. This may impact calculations for child support and/or spousal support. It some cases, financial realities may make it difficult to even contemplate getting a divorce.
If you are contemplating divorce at this time, consult with a lawyer about how a potential recession or depression will affect your case. Your attorney can craft the best possible settlement for you, taking into consideration taxes and other factors. A lawyer can also review spousal and child support obligations in light of changed financial circumstances.
Beyond financial issues, the coronavirus can also make decisions on custody and parenting time difficult. For example, if one parent is considered an essential worker, while the other parent can work from home, the second parent may argue that the kids are safer with them. Even if both parents are at home, one parent may be more strict than the other about social distancing — which may cause friction when it comes to figuring out when and how the kids will go between houses.
School closures can also present challenges, as custody and companionship time is often determined in part based on when the kids are in school. In addition, trying to figure out how to handle virtual learning between two households can be challenging. A skilled Cleveland divorce lawyer can help you put together a schedule that works for both parents — and that is in the best interests of the kids.
Considering Divorce? Reach Out Today.
Being stuck at home with your spouse may have made you realize that your marriage just isn’t working. It is still possible to file for divorce during this pandemic, although the issues involved may be more complex. A Cleveland divorce lawyer can advocate for you throughout the process.
Based in Cleveland, Laubacher & Co. represents clients throughout the region in a range of family law matters. With decades of combined experience, we are well-suited to handle even the most challenging divorce or family law case. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 440-356-5700 or email us at any time.