Many family law firms across the United States have remained open, either with staff working remotely, working in disinfected offices, or a combination of both. However, the experience of recently instituted divorces has been scarce. Even so, information on the effect of Corona virus on our finances and families has been the subject of many articles and discussions.
Through that research and our experience of the last couple of months, there are some things to know about the effects of Corona virus on divorce and post-divorce proceedings. They include:
Most businesses, and certainly all restaurants, have been negatively effected if not wiped out by the pandemic. Some rare businesses have experienced a boost in their profits. One thing is for sure, the valuation of all businesses has been effected. Valuation experts have no way of knowing the extent of the impact upon future profitability of businesses. Most valuation experts will want to “wait and see” before rendering any opinion as to value.
Real Estate Valuations:
Similarly, no one knows the extent of the effect on residential or commercial real estate. We know that sales have dramatically reduced, but no one knows for how long that will continue. Also, to what extent will lending be effected? Almost certainly, money will be tighter and, therefore, values will be lower.
A large portion of our work-force has either lost their jobs or are working on severely reduced incomes. The fortunate few of us who continue to work and enjoy financial success are the exception, not the rule. Alimony, child support, and the payment of divorce-related expenses and buy-outs will all be impacted by reduced or lost income.
Modifications of Support:
I expect there to be a proliferation of post-divorce modification requests from payors of alimony and child support. In Florida, to modify alimony it must be proven that the financial change was unanticipated, involuntary, substantial, and permanent. Permanency will be the issue du jour. The question will be: “Is this a permanent change?”
Parenting Plans and Timesharing:
COVID-19 concerns will certainly impact many past and future Parenting Plan. Travel concerns, outside contact issues, and exposure issues will dominate discussion in the near future.
Availability of Courts:
Our Courts have suffered delays over the last two months. For the most part, only truly emergency hearings have been held. That will result in an even greater backlog of cases after we emerge from this pandemic. For many of our Judges that will mean a four to six month wait for even the simplest of hearings, not to mention the wait which will be incurred in attempting to schedule a meaningful trial. 00553368-1
Increase Focus on Settlement:
Because of the unavailability of our Courts, there will be an increased focus on Mediation, Collaborative Law, and settlement. In our opinion, that is a very good thing. Litigation is extremely expensive, timeconsuming, emotionally draining, unpredictable, and seemingly never ending. In our opinion, now more than ever before, settlement must be the focus of efforts in divorce-related matters.
Certainly, other issues exist and will continue to be developed around the pandemic. Suffice it to say, we are living in interesting times and interesting challenges will certainly arise.
If you have any questions about your situation, we remain available to assist.