The pandemic has upended billions of lives, sending anxiety and stress levels to all-time highs. Although vaccine distribution is underway worldwide, the need to continue social distancing has distressed families due to isolation, confinement, limited employment opportunities, and the lack of reliable resources. Many relationships and marriages have suffered as well, with the pandemic exacerbating any weaknesses and driving couples to the edge, causing many to consider separation and divorce.
However, getting separated or divorced has always been a complicated process. It’s even more difficult during a pandemic, where court systems have been closed or adjusted their operations to avoid spreading the virus. Given these circumstances, you may be wondering if it is still possible to separate from your spouse and the best way to proceed.
Proceeding With a Separation or Divorce During COVID-19
Fortunately, it is still possible to work with a divorce lawyer to initiate the dissolution of your marriage. However, due to COVID-19 safety regulations, Family Courts will hear only emergency cases involving family members that may be in danger. However, the court is only one of your many options, and it may not even be the ideal one for your situation. Here are other ways to pursue a separation or divorce during the pandemic:
Mediation is a process involving a neutral third party who will assist and negotiate with you and your spouse to help you compromise and reach an agreement. Through this, you’ll understand each other’s needs and desires and work towards a solution that strives to fulfill both. However, if it proves to be impossible to reach an agreement, you can pursue legal action instead.
If you want to avoid taking your case to court, you can opt for arbitration instead. The arbitrator, also a third-party, will make a binding decision on the separating couple. This person will substitute a judge in this scenario, which means they must be impartial and have specific knowledge and training in family law. Arbitration is essentially similar to what happens in court, although it is much less formal and intimidating. It is also entirely private, confidential, and occurs according to your schedule.
Collaborative Family Law
Also known as collaborative practice, this method matches a trained family lawyer with each partner. The four of you will cooperate to address your issues and reach an agreement outside of a courtroom in a private, neutral arrangement. When you first enter into this process, both you and your partner must sign a participation agreement. You will both commit to exchanging information fully and arrive at a solution that prioritizes the entire family’s best interest. You will also agree not to go to court and keep everything in a safe, impartial space. You and your separating partner can decide on the agenda, and your lawyers will guide you to ensure you both find the most optimal solution for everyone involved.
Courts and Litigation
Courts and litigation is often the first path that comes to mind for those wanting to initiate a divorce. However, this is the most time-consuming, tedious, and expensive method. It is also incredibly public and can impact you and your separating partner negatively, making you both feel stressed at the developments. Still, it is possible to go down this route, but it’s best to consult with a family lawyer to determine if this is truly the best option for you.
Given the current restrictions, you may feel tempted to wait until the situation subsides and things normalize. However, it’s best not to wait, as there is currently a backlog of cases that will slow down the court system once restrictions are lifted. You also have many options outside of court that allow you and your separating partner to resolve your case fully. By meeting with a family lawyer and seeking their guidance, you’ll determine which route is best for you and your separating partner.
Dreyer and Associates Family Law assists families across the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland in child support, family mediation, marriage agreements, spousal support, and other family law issues. We also offer residential conveyancing and wills and estates legal assistance. Contact us today to find out more about what we can do for you.