Navigating Divorce and Custody Agreements With out Courts Throughout COVID-19 | Pullman & Comley, LLC
A May 8, 2020 headline in the New York Times read: “The pandemic has slowed the divorce process. The following is to be expected. ”
A litany of nightmares follows – inability to begin the process, stalling cases in progress, incomes decline while divorce costs rise as delays abound with no end in sight. This is the new COVID-19 reality. Divorced and divorced parents are stuck in Connecticut and around the world. Courts are mostly closed or operate at reduced hours and capacity as families face staggering new pressures such as income instability, declining wealth, arranging child safety measures, or managing chaotic custody plans.
Is there any other way for these families?
The answer is a resounding “YES!” Litigation options other than the judicial approach to divorce have been around for decades. These options help families manage divorce and post-divorce assistance and custody arrangements without going to court.
What are these options and how do they work?
- The most popular option is mediation. A neutral attorney, sometimes working with a psychiatrist or finance professional, will help the couple explore options and come up with a solution that works for the family. This process works well for couples with reasonably good communication and the ability to see each other’s perspective in order to compromise.
- Less well known, but particularly effective, is a process called collaborative divorce. This option is aimed at couples who could get more support in their negotiations. It is a team approach to divorce where each spouse is represented by their own attorney and brings together the expertise of a neutral psychologist and a finance professional, each specially trained on the model. The collaborative team is better able to handle the poor communication that often exists between a divorced or divorced couple, reduce conflict, and increase efficiency. This often leads to a more creative and permanent solution than what is possible in a litigation.
Do these processes protect the interests of customers and children without a judge controlling things?
This is a common fear. People who are concerned about their future and the future of their children want protection and believe that the judicial system offers it. The reality is very different, especially now. Even before COVID19 struck, the court system was overloaded, inefficient and costly. Over 95% of the litigants settled their cases before the trial Often times, they have waited unsuccessful hours and thousands of dollars in courthouses, fighting over tentative issues like document disclosure and temporary support and schedules for parents. Many people don’t see the judge until the divorce is finalized and the judge merely approves an agreement. COVID19 has exposed the weaknesses of the controversial divorce system like never before as the courthouse is literally closed to most litigants.
A better way for families:
What couples seeking a divorce usually don’t understand is that divorce is a transition, not an end, from one type of family unit to another family unit after divorce. Spouses will be forever bonded when they have children together, and even if a couple has no children or children have grown up, the financial bond can last for years after the divorce. The traditional adversarial model of litigation was not designed for families and often does not protect children. This pandemic presents an extraordinary challenge, but it also offers the opportunity to use an out-of-court procedure to resolve divorce and post-divorce problems and thus put divorced families on the path to a better future.