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Divorce is hard even under the best of circumstances.
I should know as I have truly been battle-tested and battle-scarred from my own personal ordeal.
I never even once thought about how the current global pandemic impacts people who are divorcing or are considering divorce.
That all changed when I received the following guest post from John Ocampos who wanted to share some of the unique situations COVID-19 presents on a divorce.
We are living in unprecedented times due to the ongoing global pandemic of COVID–19.
The deadly virus is unstoppable at the moment and has resulted in thousands of deaths and millions more being affected.
While most people measure the impact of the COVID-19 based on its effect on the lives and health of people, it is also important to measure the long-lasting impact COVID-19 has on the emotional, mental, and financial state of these individuals.
According to a survey being conducted by BBC, there are reports about the increasing number of divorce cases being filed during COVID – 19.
Before delving deeper into the financial impact COVID – 19 has on divorce, let’s first look into what are the possible reason for the increase in divorce cases in these unprecedented times:
● Emotional breakdown and anxiety
In these strange times, there is uncertainty about what the future holds.
This uncertainty has a profound psychological effect which can lead to an increase in anxiety and depression.
This can add undue stress to any relationship and push a married couple over the tipping point.
● Financial Stress
Many people have lost their jobs, furloughed, or have drastically reduced pay during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Money issues have long been cited as a major cause of divorce during normal times.
The increased financial stress COVID-19 places on a married couple only adds fuel to the fire.
Unique challenges divorcing individuals face in the times of COVID-19
● Closure of Family Courts
Most of the family courts are either closed or are working only for emergencies.
In these times of global pandemic, the last thing you would need is larger and larger backlogs of court cases which could lead to even higher stress and anxiety levels for the participants.
● Complete or Partial Lockdown.
Social distancing measures such as stay at home orders makes finding a separate domicile for each spouse challenging.
● Unprecedented issues relating to income
COVID-19 has pushed to the forefront economic factors that can make divorce challenging.
If either (or both) spouse has experienced economic hardship already because of COVID-19, the challenge of having the funds necessary to initiate and sustain divorce proceedings may prove to be insurmountable.
Fortunately there are still creative ways to supplement or replace lost income even when under shelter at home orders.
● Custody of child/children
One of the major issues in a normal separation or divorce is which parent takes the custody of child/children and whether or not he/she can support him/her financially.
COVID-19 throws in another wrinkle in whether or not the non-custodial parent will have his or her visitations diminished/suspended because of social distancing measures.
● Challenges in the division of marital property
Dividing the marital property in a normal divorce is one of the more contentious issues encountered.
There are multiple unique factors that COVID-19 presents that makes reaching an equitable division near impossible.
COVID-19’s impact on various asset classes can be asymmetric.
Assets that have anything to do with travel (vacation homes, timeshare) or in the hospitality industry (ownership in restaurants, hotels, airlines, cruise lines, etc) have likely seen their current values dramatically eroded.
These same assets may experience an asymmetrically robust rebound once the pandemic subsides.
So does the spouse receiving these assets have an unfair advantage as their value may dramatically skyrocket after receiving them at rock bottom prices?
On the other hand some assets may be artificially propped up due to the drastic measures the government has undertaken in trying to support them.
The CARES act has infused a lot of money during the pandemic and many small businesses are currently surviving because of it.
But when the pandemic funds dry up, can these small businesses survive on their own merits?
What happens to the spouse who received these assets during the divorce and have it counted against their balance sheet with an artificially high valuation?
How can you factor in future recovery or decline to adequately compensate the spouse that does or does not receive them?
If spousal support is required by one party, does that spouse get an artificially low amount because the divorce happened to occur when these income producing assets are no longer producing income or the former spouse’s income is lower than normal?
These challenges may make it necessary to work closely with a financial expert and devise a contingency support system into your agreement so that this potential impact of COVID – 19 on your asset values can be countered fairly.
These strange times may therefore require unorthodox measures that divorces pre-COVID never had to consider.
During these tough times, divorce is the last thing you would want, but sometimes it is unavoidable.
In such cases, you should always try to minimize mental anxiety and pressure.
Divorce is a lengthy legal process.
The financial distribution of assets and income is a very tedious and extremely difficult measure especially in the midst of a global pandemic.
The best way out is to take the help of financial and legal experts and very carefully determine the value of each of your assets so that you do not have to suffer once the pandemic ends.
John Ocampos is an Opera Singer by profession and a member of the Philippine Tenors.
Digital Marketing has always been his forte.
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