It may be obvious that many New Yorkers stuck in difficult marriages will want to file for divorce once the Governor’s PAUSE order is lifted. After all, what could be worse than complete confinement with a spouse you can’t stand? Not much– unless you emerge from lockdown and find yourself stuck in a backlog of divorce filings. You may have heard that in several Chinese cities, there were record high numbers of divorces filed when coronavirus restrictions were eased there in early March. According to some accounts, clerks didn’t even have time to drink a glass of water because so many couples were lined up to file.
Thankfully, there is a lot that can be done right now to get to the front of that line. Every case, whether contested or uncontested, requires preparation. Even though the courts are currently closed to non-essential filings such as divorce actions, you can get your case ready so that once the courts re-open, you can beat the rush.
Finding the right lawyer is a good first step. Your attorney will be guiding you through an important life event, so it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident with this person. Of course, the best way to make this connection is in person, but since that is not possible during the lockdown, an in-depth phone or video consultation can prove invaluable for defining objectives and developing a strategy designed to make life “on the other side” livable once again.
Not only can you learn what your case will need to succeed while confined to your home, but your case can be negotiated and even settled without the need for any court involvement. Most divorces are settled out of court, and most attorneys continue to work from home using video conferencing tools such as Facetime, Skype and Zoom.
Settlement conferences attended by divorcing spouses and their attorneys are now being held in much the same way as conferences across a table once were. There are numerous issues in a divorce — custody, parenting time, child support, maintenance, equitable distribution of marital property, preservation of separate property, and insurance needs — and all of them can be negotiated in advance of the courts re-opening. Once an agreement on the issues is reached, a written agreement is prepared and finalized. Again, this does not require the courts being open.
The only step left after the settlement agreement is signed is the final step: Submitting it to the court with the paperwork needed for the judge to sign the judgment of divorce. Of course, that can only be done once the courts have re-opened. But those couples who thought ahead and used their time wisely during New York PAUSE will be first in line to get their divorce judgments signed. Just as importantly, even before the divorce is finalized, they will have the enforceable written agreements needed to embark on separate lives with confidence, knowing when they’ll see their children will live, what money will be paid and when, and how their assets will be divided.
The attorneys at Petroske Riezenman & Meyers offer a free initial consultation by telephone or video. We’d be happy to answer your questions and start you on the path to freedom. Call us at 631-337-1977, email us, or contact us.