Should I Get Divorced? (Coronavirus Edition)
For better or worse, the coronavirus pandemic has had the effect of putting various things into perspective. First, there’s the physical lockdown. You haven’t got anywhere else to go, so you’re always home. Second, there’s the increased time, whether it’s from lack of work or school, or your suddenly nonexistent commute. Both of these mean you’re probably spending more time than usual with your loved ones, or in your own head, which brings us to the third factor: if you knew you were going to die tomorrow—say, from COVID-19, or maybe just an unlucky car accident—would you spend today in the same way?
For some people, reduced work and school obligations, and more time with family has been a win-win situation. For others, this sudden closeness has cast light on previously buried problems. With no distractions, it’s hard to ignore your partner being more physically or emotionally distant than you remembered, or inexplicably taking his or her aggressions out on you, or teaching the kids a life lesson you disagree with. Is this the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? Have you grown further apart than you thought? Is this part of a larger pattern of disappointments?
Or, to play devil’s advocate, is it just a bad moment that you can work through together? Is there anything you can help your partner with, to lighten the load? After all, living together is a team sport, and no one player is perfect 100% of the time. Maybe something as simple as taking up a new hobby together can help relieve your partner’s pent-up stress. Maybe a couple of therapy sessions would be beneficial. Maybe one or both of you were laid off, and neither of you know how you’ll be supporting your family from here on out. That’d be enough to wear anyone out. Maybe you can look for assistance programs together.
Frankly, these are questions only you can answer. But, you’re not alone. Divorce rates tend to rise after epidemics force everyone indoors. For example, divorce filings in Wuhan, Xi’an, and Dazhou (cities in China) have backed up the courthouses there. Lawyers here in the United States are expecting a similar uptick in cases. Divorce attorneys are reporting increased phone consultations, with most anticipating an avalanche of work once the courts finally reopen. Pursuant to Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile’s April 10, 2020 order, the Los Angeles Superior Court is expected to reopen on June 10, with hearings resuming on June 22.
That said, the court is currently open for emergency business. If you need domestic violence restraining orders, you can still apply for and get them.
The controversial website AshleyMadison.com, known for catering to users who are already married, is reporting an increase in new users (more than one thousand per day) since the pandemic started. Unfortunately, even if your spouse cheats on you, you aren’t entitled to any legal relief under California divorce law. Either party can file for divorce, at any time, and for any reason. This is known as “irreconcilable differences.”
Also, since the coronavirus has sent the stock market and broader economy into a nosedive, now may be the right time to get divorced, especially if you’re the higher earning spouse. Since the values of community assets and debts are usually equally divided as of the date of separation, and the value of assets is lower at the moment, you might be able to settle for less than you would under normal conditions.
Still, every case’s facts are different, and divorce isn’t a decision to make lightly. If you have any questions about the legal part of the process, feel free to call our office at (562) 598-7486 for a free, fifteen-minute consultation.