COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our lives, including divorce. Here are a few things to know about the pandemic has changed divorce proceedings and court orders in Texas—and about how the pandemic may be affecting your marriage.
The Supreme Court of Texas has ruled that courts should not hold nonessential proceedings in-person. This means your hearing will probably be held online.
You should also know that the pandemic has caused a backup in the court system. This means it may take longer to get a hearing date. And if you insist on having an in-person hearing, you may have to wait even longer.
One option is to consider mediation. A mediator works with many couples to establish terms they both can agree on. A mediated settlement can speed up your divorce and perhaps reduce your costs. You also may be able to hold the mediation online.
Divorce Court Orders Still Apply During the Pandemic
While court proceedings have changed, court orders have not. For example, the established period of possession still stands. Also, a stay-at-home order does not override any custody exchanges.
If both partners agree to it, you may be able to hold child visitations online and you need to cooperate with your ex. However, we suggest you consult with your attorney first.
To repeat: Unless a court order has been legally amended, you must still comply with it during the pandemic.
The Pandemic Can Lead to Parenting Conflicts After the Divorce
Speaking of children, one potential issue during the COVID-19 era is parent disagreements. For example, one parent may be comfortable having the kids do in-person school, while the other is not. Or one parent may be opposed to letting the child attend a friend’s birthday party.
We encourage parents to try to work together as much as possible. You may need to apply for a modification to custody orders to protect your child during this time. However, if the two of you are not able to find a mutually satisfactory solution, you should consult with a family law attorney.
Is the Covid-19 Pandemic Affecting Divorce Rates?
In addition to being a public health crisis, the pandemic has created an emotional health crisis for many couples. Husbands and wives are struggling to cope with many challenges and are dealing with change. This includes unemployment or reduced income, school closures, backlogged health care providers, homelessness, changing relationships, and even getting a divorce during pandemics.
Making matters worse, COVID-19 has made it harder for people to socialize. So they are spending less time with the friends and family who would otherwise provide them with support.
Simply put, the pandemic has taken a toll on people, and it can take a toll on marriages, too.
For example, if one partner is suffering from anxiety, depression, or unemployment, it puts an added burden on the other partner. This can result in a previously healthy marriage suffering. On the other extreme, if one of the two partners was already considering divorce, the additional time spent together may have reinforced their desire to end the marriage.
There is conflicting data on whether the pandemic has caused the divorce rate to drop or increase. Regardless, we want you to be sensitive to any impact COVID-19 may be having on your marriage. If you are concerned, we encourage you to consider meeting with a qualified therapist. Marriage is not always easy, and in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be even more difficult.
Here are some other reasons why many couples are getting a divorce during the pandemic.
Some parents might have realized their spouse isn’t as caring and nurturing to the kids as they expected. Other parents might have expected the working spouse to spend more time with the children and help out around the house while working from home, but it didn’t happen.
Even a couple without kids might have found they don’t enjoy spending as much time together as thought. Families can struggle with unmet expectations relating to spending more time with each other. At the same time, couples could delay their divorce if they think it will be difficult to be alone during a lockdown or social distancing measures.
Unmet expectations can cause a strain in family relationships. This can lead a couple to make the decision to divorce during a pandemic.
The lack of communication between couples can become a more serious problem during a pandemic. One spouse may not know how to ask for help when they need it.
This problem arises especially when one partner has an increase in their domestic workload compared to the other partner. Working mothers sometimes now have to shoulder more parenting duties with online schooling, on top of their work. If they do not communicate their needs to their husband, they can grow resentful. This gets worse when they see their husband relaxing around the house and not offering any help, while they struggle to balance the needs of the kids and work. The other spouse might also find that their spouse is not giving them any attention, which can strain the relationship.
In a healthy relationship, a married couple would communicate effectively and avoid withdrawing from discussions about things that bother them. They can resolve conflict in a healthy matter. They do their best to agree on what each person needs to do to hold the family together during a difficult time.
Families that are unable to communicate during these difficult times can opt to get divorced instead.
Finances are a huge source of stress for many people who are finding themselves having to take pay cuts or losing jobs. One spouse could be demoralized if they’ve prided themselves on earning money for their family, while the other spouse can be stressed out about managing a tighter family budget. Couples can fight over how to spend the money they have and clash over financial priorities.
The new challenges of finding ways to make ends meet can also put a strain on many family relationships and cause marital problems.
Acting On Something They Already Intended To Do
Couples may already have intended to get a divorce or separation but never got the push to take action or had the time to seriously think about going through with it. Living at home together during quarantine may have confirmed to people that they do not want to stay in the marriage. The thought of continuing to live together for possibly a year or more with restrictions may have pushed people to get divorced and end the marriage.
Different Life Goals
The proximity of living together during the lockdown period can lead people to reconsider their life with their partner. A nagging feeling about how the both of you have grown into different people and want different things in life can trigger you to think about divorce and take action, especially in a time when many people realize their lives can be disrupted at any time.
Daily interaction between couples can also cause them to get on each other’s nerves or become disillusioned with each other as they realize they cannot live with the behaviors and beliefs of their partner every day. Some may think they would not have gotten married to the same person if they could choose again. Couples may consider divorce as a form of escape from their partners to build a new life for themselves.
Inability To Access Support Systems
Many people may have used to go out or spend time with friends as a way to cope with stress in the relationship or deal with marital problems. However, social distancing guidelines and lockdowns during the pandemic may have forced married couples to confront their differences without social support. If couples are unable to resolve their issues, they are likely to opt to get divorced instead.
Mental Health Issues
When one partner suffers from poor mental health as a result of the pandemic, it can put a lot of strain on the other partner if he or she does not have enough support. For example, one partner might have developed an anxiety disorder and the other person has to handle everything as well as cope with the situation alone during the quarantine. People who have to run the household, take care of other family members, and handle the kids can be exhausted. They are likely to ask for a divorce or separation as a result if they just have had enough.
The divorce process can be very long and difficult. You will need to work with your spouse to agree on child custody arrangements and property division. If you and your spouse don’t agree, then the process can drag out over a longer time with the judge deciding property division and child custody arrangements according to Texas law.
If you’re already thinking about divorce, start preparing your finances and reaching out to a lawyer for advice about the best arrangement for your children. You need a qualified attorney who is experienced in the process and who can fight for your rights.
Here to Help When You Need Us
At Sean Lynch, we have more than 10 years’ experience in family law. We are experts in divorce, child custody arrangements, and amending court orders. We provide honest and affordable legal representation while striving to make the process as smooth as possible. If you have questions or concerns, we offer a no-cost 30-minute consultation. Give us a call today at 817-688-5879.