Just when you thought your divorce case was moving along and you’d soon be able to make a fresh start, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 brought life around New York City to a screeching halt with loads of downtime. The good news is that the New York State Unified Court system is operating virtually throughout the state, according to an April 6, 2020 press release. The downside is that it’s not business as usual for most court cases, other than those based upon emergency and essential services. Under the circumstances, many divorce proceedings will be moving forward slowly, if at all.
Still, you can make the most of your own downtime while courts are operating under limitations. There are a few tasks you can handle now that can support the work of your New York divorce lawyer AND your interests in divorce proceedings. Here are some tips to get you started.
Identify Areas Suitable for Agreement: Not every issue in a divorce needs to go to a full hearing and, in fact, many parties are able to resolve their differences without ever seeing a courtroom. New York has a statute regarding marital settlement agreements through which you can compromise on such matters as asset division, spousal support, and child custody and visitation. Now is a good time to identify the areas where you believe agreement is possible and appropriate.
Take Notes on Your Goals in Divorce: Even if you can’t reach an agreement on some or all divorce issues, it’s important to identify what you want from the process. Obviously, everything will not go your way, so you should prioritize the issues that mean the most for your future. If you’re dead-set on keeping the marital home, realize that New York’s equitable distribution laws will balance other assets in favor of your soon-to-be-ex.
Continue with Custody and Visitation Arrangements: All orders previously entered in your divorce case still have legal force and effect, including those related to child custody and visitation. You shouldn’t deviate from the current arrangement, since there could be severe consequences for noncompliance. As the custodial parent, you’ll need to allow parenting time unless you believe your child’s health is in danger because of COVID-19 exposure.
Get Creative in Exercising Parental Rights: The implications of novel coronavirus may prevent you from parenting time, whether it’s because you tested positive for COVID-19, were exposed, work overtime in an essential market sector, or for other reasons. You’re still entitled to parenting time, but you might need to think outside the box. Work out video conferencing to talk to your child and play virtual games, such as scavenger hunts, solve-a-mystery, educational games, and others.
Keep Your Divorce Lawyer Up to Date: You should periodically check in with your New York divorce attorney while doing your duty to remain safe at home. Your lawyer will continue to work on your case during this downtime and can communicate with opposing counsel on many divorce-related issues. It’s possible to emerge from this crisis in a better position because you dedicated time to these and other important tasks.
Trust a New York Divorce Attorney to Handle the Details
These are just a few ideas on how you can make the most of your COVID-19 downtime while New York divorce cases move at a slower pace. If you have questions about divorce proceedings and how we can assist, please contact The Mandel Law Firm. You can reach our Manhattan office at (646) 770-3868 or via our website to set up a consultation. We’re open for legal support during the current crisis, and we’ve prepared some COVID-19 materials that may answer some of your questions.