The coronavirus epidemic is affecting literally every aspect of our lives from shopping, travel and work, to business and markets, especially family law!
Here are some considerable points related to family law cases and divorce during the outbreak. For example, both avoiding the risk of transmission of the coronavirus but also filing for child custody plans, decision for divorce or division of assets, visitation and parenting time for divorced parents are the most important scenarios that need to be taken into consideration.
How to handle family law cases during the Coronavirus epidemic?
You should still adhere to court orders even if courts are closed and you cannot file your case.
It might occur that the parent is too afraid of virus transmission and thus, does not want to give his or her child over to the other parent. There are some factors which directly affect the courts’ responses to the parent’s decision at a subsequent hearing. These factors include:
- Documentation of containment efforts that placed an impact on her decision
- Good parenting history and compliance with visitation orders
- Certainty of the risk that the parent was avoiding
Thus, keep in mind that just because there’s a pandemic , a parent has no legal rights to restrict another parent from visiting or seeing his or her child. All decisions need to be solely reinforced by court orders.
What about child visitation during COVID-19?
Regarding the issue of visitation, it seems that there are uncertainties during the time of outbreak, as a parent may refuse their child from traveling and visiting the other parent due to virus fears. In the case that the child has been exposed to an infected parent, it is best for the child to wait it out rather than reside with the second parent. This will prevent any further virus spreads.
The best solution can be a negotiation between the two parents. Moreover, the parents can reach a written agreement and show it to their lawyer or the parents can meet their children on Skype or other social networks.
Be mindful of the said impacts. It is safer to suspend any physical parenting time with your beloved children!
To Divorce or not to divorce during COVID-19?
It is both interesting and appalling the divorce rate in China has increased during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the business insider, the main reason for the sudden unprecedented spike is due to the more time the couples spend together during quarantine, as Chinese Register offices and the officials announced.
As lawyers know, the obtainment of a court date and appearance along with filing applications is already hard enough in normal occasions, but it has taken on an extra toll amidst the widespread Coronavirus outbreak. Accordingly, it is a risky decision if you are planning to file for an immediate divorce as technology in legal procedures of many courts have still not been implemented and parties may face temporary hearing cancellations.
Needless to say, you may face problems in finding a qualified legal advisor or lawyer to represent you in the best way as many law firms are closed during the epidemic time.Leaving your current home and trying to find a new place or booking hotels is also not a good choice.
Important point to consider during this outbreak is to consider the situation of your medical coverage before separation, as you won’t be able to remain on your spouse’s health insurance plan. So, do not divorce now!
What about division of the matrimonial assets in divorce cases during the Coronavirus epidemic?
It is better not to divide assets (pensions, shareholdings, and other investments) during the time of outbreak, as the consequences of the virus on the market will not disappear soon. Thus, the housing market and real estate will crash. In fact, the spread of the Coronavirus indirectly affects the market values of assets involved in financial settlement negotiations of family law.
The consequences of assets during this time are mentioned in simple language by a lawyer in an article published on YLAW Group blog. Leena Ronak Yousefi is a family & divorce lawyer and the founder of YLAW Firm. She has been chosen as one of the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada. From 2013 till present, Ms. Yousefi has also won over 90% of her family law related cases.
According to her article,
You may have to sell your investments at a fraction of how much you purchased them. Because markets are crashing as we speak. Holding on to the investments and waiting for stability is one of the smartest things you can do. So if you have to divide investments, try and do it in specie, meaning do not cash them out and divide; simply roll them over to the other spouse such as doing an RRSP Role Over.
You may have to sell your house at a huge loss because people are panicking. Once people lose their money in stocks, they will look to sell their house to earn money.
There will be an oversupply of housing and less demand to buy in uncertain times. This can drive down house value. Hold on to real estate as long as you can and until things stabilize. Do not panic because of separation.
You may lose a huge amount of money by cashing out RRSPs, because guess what, they too are likely currently worth less than how much they were worth 2 months ago. And they are going to continue to fall.
If you try to divide or sell your half share of the business to your spouse, you are putting both yourself and your spouse under tremendous risk and pressure. Right now is no time to make such decisions because the value of the business may have changed substantially given this virus. The life and viability of the business should be your #1 priority right now, not how much you can get out of it. So as much as you can, work with your spouse to take the business to the shore of safety instead of rocking it harder during the tsunami.
So what can be concluded?
Any resettlement of a child, whether domestically or internationally, should be carefully considered in terms of its consequences during this health crisis. It should either be assessed and ruled upon by court orders or applications should be put to a halt until the situation has alleviated.
Considering the current situation, making informed decisions is a must do. One should keep in mind that in order to avoid further problems in family law related issues, the wise decision is to postpone case filings and wait until legal procedures return to its normal status and stability has returned. Stay calm!