Filing for a contested divorce in Probate and Family Court during the best of times is time consuming, expensive, and stressful. With the onset of COVID-19, AKA Coronavirus, we are suddenly living in a time of great fear and uncertainty. Ordinary life has come to a grinding halt. On March 18, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court issued a Standing Order closing the Probate and Family Courthouses to the general public for everything except emergency hearings until at least May 1, 2020: https://www.mass.gov/probate-and-family-court-rules/probate-and-family-court-standing-order-2-20-court-operations-under.
Social distancing and social isolation means families are home during working hours—children are out of school, many parents are working from home or unemployed. While all the togetherness can strengthen family bonds, it is also a great test of relationships. Marriages that were failing before the crisis are furthered stressed with spouses being forced to be in the same quarters 24-7.
You may have been preparing to file for divorce or may have even filed for divorce before the pandemic but now are unsure how to proceed, or think that you will have to postpone your divorce until the pandemic is over. If so, you may be in for a long wait. Experts are saying that the current crisis could last up to 18 months. So what are your options? With Alternative Dispute Resolution you may be able to get a divorce without stepping foot in the courthouse more than once, or even at all with the option of phone or video conference for uncontested hearings.
Consider this: with mediation and collaborative divorce, you and your spouse can work out all of the the terms of your separation and divorce, including custody and parenting time, child support or spousal support/alimony, asset or property and liability or debt division, etc., without leaving the safety of your home, even if you think that your divorce will be filled with conflict. Mediators and collaborative lawyers and other professionals can help you work through your disputes to meet your goals and interests instead of fighting a zero sum game and dissipating your marital assets on the high costs of litigation.
Unlike court cases which are at a virtual standstill, ADR is functioning business as usual. Using online video conferencing, collaborative lawyers, mediators and other ADR professionals can help divorcing couples find solutions for a fraction of the cost of litigation. Because your divorce is not in court it will be private and you will have full control over the terms. And because no one has to travel, sessions can be flexibly scheduled for a time when children are asleep or otherwise occupied.
In short, there may be no better time than the present to consider ADR for your divorce.