The pandemic stemming from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has had unprecedented implications across the US and throughout the world, and there are countless consequences that affect Virginians at a local level. It is reassuring to note that many communities nationwide are starting to get back to normal, though they are at varying stages of the process. Still, there can be no question that uncertainty remains as the numbers continue to come in on infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. If the unthinkable were to happen and government officials would impose another lockdown as we head into Fall and Winter, it will be hard for all to overcome the anguish of taking a step back instead of forward.
However, for parties who are currently going through the divorce process in Virginia, the ambiguities can be overwhelming. Divorce is already stressful, so it can be frustrating to learn that new quarantines or other rules could force further delays. Your Virginia divorce lawyer can provide specifics on how a potential Fall/Winter lockdown could affect your case, but asking yourself a few questions can help you frame the key issues.
Will a lockdown affect either spouse’s support needs or obligations? If Virginia moves to shut down restaurants, bars, stores, and other businesses in the hospitality industry, you or your spouse might be out of a job. When the court has already entered an order under Virginia’s statute on spousal support for while the divorce case is proceeding, the implications can be significant. The payor may no longer be able to afford to make alimony payments, so you may need to modify the existing order.
Should we sell or liquidate marital assets? COVID-19 has had extreme financial consequences for many families, and some have been forced to sell real estate, vehicles, or other big ticket items to make ends meet. You may find yourself in the same situation if officials announce another lockdown, even though you are in the midst of the divorce process.
Do you need to make changes to your child custody and visitation arrangement? Like spousal support, a Virginia divorce court may have previously entered an order for child custody and visitation that is intended to remain in place while the case is pending. COVID-19 lockdowns may necessitate changes to the existing arrangement, depending on how each parent’s schedule is affected. Note that you must also address adjustments to child support if one parent will be taking over primary residential or caregiving duties.
Could school closures affect your custody and visitation? The Virginia Department of Education and officials in Fairfax County have determined that children are going fully remote for school. However, this decision has always been subject to change if the circumstances require it. If lockdowns make e-learning unworkable under the current custody and visitation schedule, you must make appropriate accommodations.
What happens if either party contracts COVID-19? You reduce your risk of getting the virus by following safety guidelines, but there is always the chance one party could become infected. If the government orders a lockdown, the biggest effects will be for parents with minor children. One may need to step up and be the primary caretaker, even if only temporarily. As with other changes to custody, visitation – and, by extension, child support – you must rely on your attorney to go through the proper process in court.
Can you resolve disagreements through agreement? A potential lockdown could have disastrous implications if parties become embroiled in disputes over asset division, alimony, and issues related to minor children. At times, you may be able to work through disagreements through your respective lawyers. It is often possible to smooth over conflicts when you are not dealing directly with your soon-to-be-ex. Negotiations through your attorneys can keep emotion out of the process.
How will you handle regular divorce court appearances? Even if courts do go into lockdown, there are ways to make sure your case continues moving forward as much as possible. Your attorney can take care of routine hearings and status conferences via remote technology and e-filing.
A Virginia Divorce Attorney Can Help You Work Through the Answers
No one wants to think about the possibility of future COVID-19 lockdowns in Virginia, but it is good to know that not every aspect of your divorce case needs to be on hold. For more information, please call 703-442-0040 or go online to reach the Northern Virginia offices of Roop Xanttopoulos Babounakis PLLC. We can set up a consultation for you to discuss your case with one of our experienced lawyers.
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