Starting to talk about divorce in a situation where neither of you can leave the house might feel like the worst idea. It might also seem like the rest of the world is on hold, but the lockdown is giving you time to think about and deal with things you had previously been putting off.
Can I do anything even if I want to?
The first question is, is it even possible to go ahead with divorce at the moment? Yes. The courts, solicitors, mediators, arbitrators and all related services are up and running and will be able to help you by phone or video call in just the same way as they can in person. Some things will be different, but our experience of virtual services at court and with third parties is that there are actually several benefits of being able to deal with things in the comfort of your home, and on your own timetable.
Is now the right time?
Bear in mind that the process will take some time. The quickest divorce will take in the region of six months from start to finish, at best, and where financial elements are involved this is usually significantly longer.
One reason to pause financial discussions at the moment is that we cannot accurately predict the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the value of certain things such as house prices, businesses, investments and what the effect will be on future incomes. This might make it impossible to negotiate with enough certainty about where a settlement will leave you in the near future.
It might be advantageous to proceed now on a cautious view of what your assets are worth, or you might simply not be affected and have sufficient security to go ahead now. It is also a good time to secure a mortgage at a low interest rate, if moving to a new property.
Using out of court dispute resolution relies on both parties agreeing to do that, and we found in the past that this agreement was sometimes hard to get. The effect of the pandemic has driven a huge uptake in remote and virtual services, meaning that you are now able much more easily to arrange private and out of court dispute resolution. While courts are slowing down in some areas, this is actually a very good time to take advantage of people’s willingness to make use of alternatives to settle disputes far more quickly than a court timetable would allow.
Will our agreement hold if circumstances change?
In some cases, a financial agreement or order can be overturned if a later, unforeseen event completely changes the financial circumstances of the parties involved. In this case, it is foreseen that there may be risk attached to making financial decisions in this current climate. A court will want to make sure that you understand that risk when making an agreement, and will then expect you to be held to it.
Whether or not the economic aftermath of the pandemic will affect you will depend on your circumstances and we can help you take a careful review.