To say that our lives will forever be impacted by the Covid-19 Pandemic could be the understatement of the century.  But now, the world around us is reopening and public health restrictions are lessening with the vaccine rollout entering its sixth month. There is certainly a “new normal;” the old way of life is probably never going to return in its prior form.  This is undoubtedly true for the practice of family law.

At the beginning of the pandemic, our world of going to multiple courtrooms in multiple courthouses around the state was thrust onto the computer screen for virtual or zoom court.  Once the novelty of appearing in court wearing a suit jacket, button-down, tie and athletic shorts or yoga pants wore off, it became clear that there were both pros and cons to practicing law over the computer. However, even ignoring the mechanics of practicing law in a virtual world, what cannot be overlooked is the impact the pandemic has had outside of the courtroom.

Since most family law cases are resolved through settlement rather than trial, there are now many new items/provisions of both allocation judgments and marital settlement agreements.  Well-crafted settlement documents are the key to a more peaceful post-decree life for not only the former spouses, but also the children.  For example, to minimize potential future conflict, it may be beneficial to include provisions/agreements about: whether a child is going to get vaccinated or not, how to divide up the e-learning responsibilities, and travel restrictions during another pandemic/health crisis.

There are also financial considerations that will need to be negotiated/accounted for in future marital settlement agreements.  These include but are not limited to: how will the parties allocate the new, and potentially permanent, child tax credit, how will the parties divide any stimulus funds received for the benefit of their children, should those funds be included in child support calculations, and how should Paycheck Protection Program “loans” influence the value of a closely held marital company?

This list of questions and topics above is clearly not exhaustive, but it certainly gives family law practitioners ideas of the potential areas they may want to include in their agreements to save their clients potential future headaches and court appearances (be it virtual or not).

Michael J. Levy, Associate

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