In a normal year, when people aren’t facing a deadly virus, record wildfires, civil unrest, and skyrocketing unemployment, going through a divorce is difficult both emotionally and financially. Adding extra difficulties into the mix of a divorce is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed. However, if you are unhappy or unsafe in your marriage and you feel it is the right time to get divorced, it is possible to make it through the process. The five tips below will hopefully help you survive a divorce during a pandemic without losing your sanity and your money.
- Shop out your divorce attorney
You want to be sure that whatever attorney you choose to hire understands your issue and you feel comfortable talking to them. You don’t necessarily need to like the attorney personally, because you are hiring them to tell you what the law is and argue on your behalf—you are not hiring them to tell you what you want to hear. However, you do need to feel comfortable telling them the truth and telling them personal, and sometimes intimate, issues about your personal life and marriage.
It is also important to ask each attorney you contact about their fees and payment options. If you cannot afford a specific attorney’s fees or the full retainer amount requested, that attorney may not be right for you. But also, be aware that you get what you pay for and sometimes higher attorney fees comes with the attorney having much more experience. This is why it is also important to read the attorney biographies on their websites and to ask the attorneys during your consultations about their experience to determine whether they are familiar with the type of issue(s) you have.
2. Contact a therapist or a psychiatrist
There are some exceptions to the rule, but generally divorces can be mentally and emotionally draining. For this reason, getting into contact with a therapist or psychiatrist should be at the top of your priority list. Speaking to friends and family may be helpful for you but doing so may be taxing on them and your relationship with them. Also, as much as you may want to talk to your attorney about how you are feeling emotionally, be aware that you are paying for the time they spend speaking with you and every moment they spend listening to you, is another moment they don’t get to spend substantively working on your case.
Due to lockdown restrictions in many California counties, many mental health professionals are no longer meeting in person to avoid the possibility of contracting or spreading COVID-19. If you would prefer to meet with someone in person, when searching for a therapist or psychiatrist, be sure to ask them how they are currently conducting patient appointments. If you would prefer to do virtual appointments or if you lost your insurance when you lost your job during the pandemic, there are online therapy services that can be accessed with a small fee, such as BetterHelp.com, that may be of interest to you.
- Figure out your budget while keeping in mind that it may change over the next year
If you don’t already know, figure out what your assets and expenses are. Also, take note of how much both you and your soon-to-be ex gets paid, whether the income is from salaries, bonuses, interest, or independent contractor work. When determining your budget, factor in the cost of your attorney’s fees and expenses.
You will also need to factor in the possibility that you may need to move into another house or apartment. If you lost your job at any time during the pandemic, finding a new place to live may be particularly challenging so discuss this issue with your attorney. You may be entitled to spousal support, if your soon-to-be ex currently has an income of some kind, and if they do, you can list this as income when applying to rent a new apartment or home. When shopping for a new residence, be sure to ask the property owner whether they are allowing in-person tours or if they are only allowing virtual tours. For safety reasons, many property owners are currently not allowing applicants to tour/view the property until after an application has been filled out and credit has been checked.
If you are unable to obtain spousal support and you are only receiving unemployment, you may want to consider staying with a friend or a family member for the time being. If that is not possible, then staying at an Airbnb or a Vrbo (formerly HomeAway) property could be a temporary option for you. According to the article below, both services are still operating at a limited capacity. “Vacation rentals are usually more expensive since they’re priced on a daily basis. During the pandemic, however, the property owners will probably work with you to offer a better deal. Ask the homeowner if you can negotiate a long-term stay.”
When creating your budget, take into consideration that it may change over the next year. As the way California’s local government and businesses handle the pandemic changes, and as lockdown restrictions begin to lift in the upcoming year with the possibility of a vaccine within the next year, you may be able to find employment again or better housing. With those changes, comes changes in spousal support and housing costs.
4. Focus on self-care
This will likely be a stressful process so do your best to imagine your life when the divorce is finalized and try to take care of yourself. Self-care can come in many forms. For some people, it’s exercise, yoga, or television; for others, it may mean Reiki sessions, massages, pedicures, or meditation. Whatever your preferred form of self-care is, increase it for the time being.
- Make a plan for keeping yourself safe and healthy
As your living situation changes and as you may be forced to change health insurance providers, if you are currently on your soon-to-be ex’s insurance policy, make a plan for keeping yourself healthy and safe by taking three steps. First, find a new insurance provider by going to www.coveredca.gov or by contacting your county’s Health and Human Services Department, and find a new doctor close to where you will be living after the divorce to limit travel and potential exposure to COVID-19. Second, decide how you want your new household to be run. If you only want to allow close family in your home, and not your soon-to-be ex, even if you have a child together, then make sure you communicate this to your attorney so that they can communicate this to your soon-to-be ex. As a third and final step, as you enter this new stage in your life, keep yourself safe by social distancing and limiting contact with new people.
Some of the ideas for this blog were inspired by the article listed below.
Please contact Argyris Mah, LLP at 408-214-6366 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a freetelephone consultation.