The early months of the COVID-19 crisis put two significant relationship events on hold —marriages and divorces. Now that the U.S. is past the initial shutdown phase, those numbers have taken a sharp turn. Statistics show that in the latter half of 2020, the number of couples seeking divorce increased by 34%. Couples indicate that the increase is due to the irreparable damage caused by pandemic lockdowns. However, divorcing during the pandemic may be just as challenging as staying together without a strategy to cope.
In North Carolina, a party seeking a divorce does not have to provide the court with a specific reason. Instead, they must show that they have lived "separate and apart" from their spouse for at least 12 months. This may be difficult in the age of COVID because of social distancing concerns. Ex-partners may decide that living "separate and apart" in the same home is the safest way to avoid COVID exposure for themselves and their children.
Couples in this situation should seek the advice of legal counsel as soon as possible. Despite the health concerns, family courts may not view cohabitation as meeting the legal definition of "separate and apart" if the parties do not handle these arrangements appropriately.
Worrying about your child's physical safety and their risk of exposure to COVID-19 goes hand-in-hand today. So divorcing parents who disagree on coronavirus protocols may find themselves in heated arguments and prolonged court battles.
However, COVID custody negotiations do not have to be a knockdown, drag-out fight. If co-parents are willing to compromise, they can create parenting plans that keep the child's best interest in mind. The North Carolina family court has put together this guide to help with this process.
Communication and Flexibility
Because of COVID, life circumstances can change in an instant. So even if a couple separates amicably, they must remain flexible. One partner may become ill or face a coronavirus-related job loss or pay cut that necessitates a change in settlement discussions or custody plans. In such instances, flexibility, respect, and kindness will go a long way in making the divorce process less contentious (and more affordable) for everyone.
Get Help From A Seasoned North Carolina Attorney
Divorces have become even more complicated in the age of COVID, but a seasoned divorce attorney can help. Contact attorney Jay Jerkins or call 919-719-2785 to discuss your family court matter today.