How to Take Positive Steps toward Divorce during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ever since March 21, 2020, the effective date of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order, the world has felt as if it stopped spinning. During this great pause we find ourselves in, it is exceedingly difficult to deal with the monotony of the week or even to change out of sweats. Some have even likened this experience to Bill Murray’s “Groundhog’s Day.” Like Bill Murray in the classic movie, people are seemingly reliving the same day over and over again. But, unlike the movie, not everyone has the luxury of sharing their days with Andie MacDowell.

For people who are either currently going through a divorce or have come to the conclusion during the quarantine that divorce is their only option, the stay-at-home order can feel especially restrictive if you are forced to share a residence with your soon to be ex-spouse. However, as I have been sharing with my clients and prospective clients, you have plenty of online options to help move things along now.

Resolution Through Mediation

With the current restrictions on appearing in court still in place, many people are worried they cannot make progress in their divorce. However, thanks to the accessibility of online mediation sessions, this is not the case. In my experience so far, having now participated in close to a dozen such sessions, mediation via Zoom has been widely successful.

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that utilizes a trained, neutral, third-party mediator to enable discussions for parties to work towards an agreement. The mediator listens to each party and attempts to facilitate an understanding of each parties’ viewpoint. In family law, mediation can be used for situations such as prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, divorce (including post-decree disputes), child custody, and parenting disputes.

Navigating the Online Housing Market

It can be difficult to begin the healing process without having the proper space between you and your spouse. Sharing a residence during a divorce can heighten the tension and cause additional stress on not just the parties, but the entire family. Under normal (Pre-Covid) circumstances, some divorcing couples decide that one of them should move out to lessen the tension. Well, real estate agents are happy to report that this is still an option.

The majority of home/apartment searching is already done online these days. By going to one of many websites, you’ll be able to do scroll through countless living spaces that meet your specific location, space, and comfort requirements or if you are working with a realtor they will simply send you listings to review that meet your criterion.

Real estate agencies are listed as essential businesses. Many, if not most, are offering virtual tours to interested buyers/renters. And when it is time to close on the deal, whether you are signing a contract or securing a mortgage, you will be able to complete all of the necessary paperwork remotely.

Thomas T. Field, Divorce and Family Law Partner and Head of Family Law Group