There are a lot of unknowns still about COVID-19, and that alone is very stressful. COVID-19 is threatening people’s livelihoods, causing a lack of basic supplies, and an inability to socialize with your support systems. These are scary times. Your marriage may be feeling some immense pressure as a result of this.
The best and first thing to do is try to prevent breaking up your marriage during stressful times. Some tried and true tips are:
- Going to marriage counseling (there are lots of virtual options for this),
- Talk to a financial advisor about your economic circumstances and make a financial game plan,
- Call a friend or family member to decompress and try to get some perspective.
If all of those fail, the following are the top things you will need to be thinking about if you are looking at pursuing a divorce with your spouse.
- Bills. Make a spreadsheet or list of all your monthly bills, credit cards, and loans.
- Bank statements. Save a copy of the last two years of bank statements from all your (and your spouses if possible) bank accounts.
- Tax Returns. Save a copy of the last two years of your tax returns.
- Pay stubs. Save the last 6 months of paystubs or income statements for yourself (and your spouse if possible).
- Document property. Take pictures of all your stuff (household goods, furniture, vehicles, the current condition of your residence, etc.).
- Children. If you have children, make sure to maintain stability for them. If you have been the primary caretaker of your children, then make sure that you do not leave without them (i.e. don’t go stay at a family member’s or a friend’s house without them). Any court looking at your divorce in the future will be hyper analyzing who has been and continues to do what parenting functions, who is with the children for more of the waking and sleeping hours, etc. Essentially, the court will be looking at the past, present, and future when determining how the parents will end up sharing time with their children moving forward. The court will want to maintain consistency as much as possible for your kids. Bottom line, if you are wanting substantial time with your children post-divorce, you need to make sure that you are having substantial time with them now.
- Child Support. If you and your spouse split up and have children, the court will be awarding a monthly child support amount to the parent who has the children the majority of the time.
- Alimony. If you have a household where a spouse makes significantly more income than the other spouse, get prepared to have the higher-earning spouse pay alimony (a.k.a. maintenance or spousal support) to the lower-earning spouse. Alimony is a monthly support payment (above and beyond child support if applicable) that is paid from one spouse to the other to help support them if there is an unequal earning potential. The lower-earning spouse should immediately make a request for alimony to the court upon filing for the divorce, so they can have help paying all their bills upon separation (it will be financially stressful for the lower-earning spouse until they get this relief from the court because the other spouse usually controls the majority of the money).
- In Community Property states such as Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, all property (personal and real) is a joint asset if it was acquired during the marriage – doesn’t matter whose name is on it or who bought it. This means that if you break up, you both have an equal right to stay in the house, or use the vehicles, etc. It doesn’t matter who bought it. Technically neither spouse can kick the other one out of the house without a court order. Either party could voluntarily leave though prior to a court order being entered.
- Until you get a court order, there are no ground rules. Neither spouse is forced to do anything about custody, nor the property or the debts until you have a court order establishing how everything will be divided and shared. You need to file for divorce and make a request for a Temporary Court Order in order to stop the chaos.
COVID-19 is a scary thing to be dealing with, and even more stressful if your family is on the rocks. The best way to stave off panic is to prepare and not bury your head in the sand – even when it is most difficult. Navigate Law Group attorneys are here to help you.
If you are heading for a divorce, here are the basic first steps:
You have to fill out the required documents (in Washington state the required documents can be found here), usually file the documents at the Superior Courthouse in the county you live, and then provide copies of everything you filed to your spouse. I would highly recommend at least a one-time meeting with an attorney (usually a couple hundred dollar flat fee) to discuss the specifics of your situation, get tailored advice (everyone’s situation requires slightly different advice), and make sure your forms are being filled out correctly. Best case scenario, you hire a lawyer to handle your divorce for you.
Navigate Law Group has experienced family law attorneys who will help you prepare for your divorce and make sure what you love most is protected throughout the process. If needed, we can set up meetings or phone calls remotely and handle all your legal issues remotely with expertise and ease. You need to make sure you are caring for you and your family – Navigate is here to help you through it.
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Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue, you should consult an attorney.