Being at home with a spouse during a stay-at-home order can exacerbate an already fragile marital situation. Everyone is experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. Some people are losing their jobs and others are struggling to simultaneously work while caring for children all day. Our lives have all changed, perhaps permanently. And yet, marital problems still exist, and the need for people to divorce also exists.
You can still file for divorce. The courts are open to accept new filings. Temporary orders for support are being made, which can include orders for how household expenses are to be paid if you are still living with your spouse. Restraining orders prohibiting the transfer and disposal of assets are still being granted as a matter of course. You can also begin the process of working outside the court system to reach resolution.
It is critical to assess the situation in the home when making the decision about whether to file at a time like this. What will your spouse’s reaction be? Will you be safe? Do you have a safety plan in place? Are your children safe? Do you have access to funds or is your spouse controlling access to money?
You should communicate with a family law attorney to help you decide when and what to file. All attorneys are working remotely and will be able to meet with you by phone or videoconference. If necessary, you can have this conversation from your car to ensure privacy and safety.
It will be important that you gather all financial information to the extent that you are able to do so while living with your spouse. It will also be important to ensure that your passwords are changed and that you are disconnected from any cloud accounts that you share with your spouse. Make sure that all your communications are absolutely private and not showing up on other devices – your children’s iPads because you share a cloud account, for example.
This would also be a good time to speak with a therapist to assist you in the process of moving forward. Therapists are conducting sessions through HIPAA-compliant platforms to ensure privacy and confidentiality.
While you and your counsel may decide that now is not the time to move forward, you can still be putting the pieces in place so that you will be prepared when the time is right.