The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a pandemic. As cases surge in the New York region and in New York City, officials are just beginning to take tough steps to attempt to contain the virus. As some regions in the U.S. close schools, ban large gatherings, and as businesses take steps to keep workers safe, many people in the U.S. are finding themselves moving into unfamiliar territory. If you are in the process of going through a divorce, are in the process of negotiating child custody decisions, or are divorced and have concerns about how this situation will impact your child custody agreement or child support, you are not alone. The Elliot Green Law Offices is a divorce law firm in Brooklyn, New York, here to offer some insights about the ways coronavirus COVID-19 could potentially impact your divorce.
With a pandemic of this nature, particularly in the early days of illness, it can be sometimes difficult to grasp the gravity of the situation. While most people who contract the virus won’t become gravely ill or require life-saving medical care, a percentage of people who will contract the virus will require life-saving medical care. Writers for both the Atlantic and the New York Times have noted that as more people get sick, the most seriously ill among them may require intensive care, including respiratory treatment and stays in the I.C.U. According to the New York Times, the U.S. only has about 45,000 intensive care beds. In the event of just a moderate outbreak, as many as 200,000 Americans might need intensive care. It has also been noted that in the event of an outbreak, hospitals will not have enough ventilators to treat the sickest patients. While the containment actions taken by some city officials might sound extreme, the actions being taken might actually simply not be enough given the seriousness of the situation. And, as more people become ill, we might see changes in the way the city responds to the virus. If the situation in Italy is any guide, we could be seeing lockdowns and changes to the way we travel and live.
Of course, it is best to stay calm and not panic. And, if you are going through a divorce, you might already be experiencing extreme stress. Now is a time to keep stress low and stay calm. However, here are some things to keep in mind about how the coronavirus COVID-19, could impact your divorce:
- Watch for Court Updates if You Have a Court Date Coming Soon. According to the ABA Journal, some federal courts have been suspending their operations and courts in Washington state, where the Coronavirus pandemic has hit hard, have put a pause on civil and criminal proceedings. In New York and Brooklyn, courts are asking that people who have traveled to high-risk areas to not use the court system and advise the court if they are sick or if they have been asked to self-quarantine. If you have an upcoming court date in March or early April, stay tuned for updates from the courts, because it is possible that as this story develops, court cases may be delayed, moved, or changed. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who are at higher risk for the coronavirus include older adults, people with heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. If you are in any of these vulnerable groups, you may want to speak to your lawyer. It may be possible to change your court date.
- Consider that Mediation or Divorce Settlement Meetings May Be Postponed. If you need to meet to discuss your divorce settlement or agreement, be prepared that these meetings may need to be postponed or conducted through video chat or Skype.
- Vulnerable Assets and Division of Property. With the stock market suffering, the pandemic may alter the way you may need to plan for retirement, especially if you had planned to retire soon. If you are also in the process of divorce, and in the process of splitting a retirement account or stocks, now might be the time to take a second look at these assets and to speak to your accountants and other experts. As the value of some of your assets becomes uncertain or is reduced, discussions regarding division of assets may need to change.
- Your House. If you own a home with your former partner, the good news is that the housing market hasn’t been hit like the stock market. That said, if you are trying to sell your home quickly so you can split the proceeds and get divorced, be prepared for delays, as more people choose to practice social distancing measures and as more transactions in the coming weeks may be performed remotely. People may not be out looking for homes if they are sick or are concerned about becoming sick.
- Child Custody. If children are asked to stay home from school or if schools are closed, is your child custody agreement robust enough to handle the challenges that can arise when the unexpected occurs? Who will care for children if childcare or daycare is not available? If you already have a child custody agreement in place with your spouse, now might be the time to discuss how you plan to handle the situation. And if you are in the process of working out your child custody agreement, this is a good opportunity to think about how an emergency of this magnitude might impact your child custody agreement and how you may want to make health care decisions for your child.
- Child Support. Many people may be laid off or out of work temporarily in the coming months. This could impact one parent’s ability to pay child support. If you need a modification of child support due to changes in your work hours or job, you may want to reach out to the divorce lawyers at the Elliot Green Law Offices in Brooklyn, New York today.
These are just some of the things to consider as this pandemic develops. In the coming weeks, we are likely to learn more. If you are in the process of getting divorced or are thinking about getting divorced, know that the divorce lawyers at the Elliot Green Law Offices in Brooklyn, New York are prepared to handle the complex situations that may arise and are taking steps to stay informed as much as possible. If you need to reach us, USAttorneys.com is also here for you to get you connected with the Elliot Green Law Firm as soon as possible.