The COVID-19 pandemic has added layers of stress and uncertainty to the already challenging process of handling divorce and other family law issues in McKinney. Child custody, valuing and dividing property, and even divorce procedures are just a few of the factors affected by COVID concerns and shutdowns.

An experienced McKinney divorce lawyer answers some of the most frequently asked questions about divorce and family law issues impacted by the pandemic.

Should I Wait to Start the Divorce Process?

While the restrictions in place during the COVID pandemic are leading to delays in processing some documents and other phases of divorce proceedings, that does not mean it is a good idea to wait to initiate the process. You can immediately begin working with a knowledgeable divorce attorney, ideally one with experience handling negotiation, mediation and various divorce options in Texas. You can also take many steps, such as gathering financial information, even when courts and offices are closed. Waiting to start the process increases the opportunities for conflict that could harm the family and result in further delays.

What If the Financial Impact of COVID has Made it Impossible to Pay Alimony or Child Support?

Child support obligations in Texas are considered a court-ordered obligation, which means only the court can excuse parents from that obligation. A McKinney child support lawyer could help a struggling parent petition the court for a modification to the child support order. If the parent who relies on child support is left empty-handed by another parent who is just using COVID as an excuse to avoid payment, an attorney can assist with child support enforcement efforts.

Spousal support, as well as contractual alimony, could also be modified by petitioning the court.

What If My Ex Won’t Let Me See Our Children During the Pandemic?

Child custody and visitation can be contentious issues even in the best of times, but now parents face many new custody challenges raised by the COVID pandemic. While the court is bound to consider questions based on a child’s best interests, a judge’s opinion will often be impacted by their own inclinations, so it is crucial to work with a legal advocate who can persuasively explain your position on the issue.

It may be advisable to implement a temporary agreement that sets new standards for the frequency of and rules for visitation that will meet both parents’ concerns. If physical visits are decreased, the parent with possessory conservatorship should be prepared to make other concessions, such as allowing more contact via phone or online. A family law attorney can negotiate an agreement between parents or petition the court for relief. Courts often determine that it is in a child’s best interests to maintain regular contact with both parents, but if contact with one parent poses a substantial risk, it may be challenging to predict the court’s response.

Can We Handle Divorce Remotely?

Many courts and divorce lawyers alike have implemented procedures for handling divorce cases remotely, and it may be possible to handle most or all aspects of a divorce case without leaving your home, even if all offices are fully reopened. The procedures involved will vary from case to case. Remote handling of a divorce can be simplified when parties are able to use the collaborative divorce process. However, a seasoned divorce lawyer may also be able to manage most aspects of a contested divorce remotely.

How Do We Value a Business Affected by COVID?

When one or both spouses have an ownership interest in a business, the process of valuing and dealing with that asset during divorce often presents many challenges. The shutdowns caused by COVID increased those challenges for many businesses. While a few companies saw a surge in activity as they supplied goods to homebound customers, others saw their revenues disappear due to extended closures or severe operating restrictions. Both situations represent a unique circumstance that needs to be considered carefully in the process of property division. Your divorce attorney may consult with valuation experts and forensic accountants to devise a scheme that makes sense for your particular business situation. The same holds true for commercial and residential property affected by COVID.

What Are the Alternatives to Handling a Divorce in Court?

Many divorces, as well as other family law issues, can be handled through the mediation process. During mediation, each party is represented by an attorney, and a neutral mediator works to find solutions that both parties agree to. The mediator does not have the authority to hand down a decision the way a judge would. Instead, the mediator works to guide parties to their own resolution.

Couples can use mediation to divide property or establish a parenting plan. In some cases, divorced couples can use the mediation process to alter the terms of their settlement. While paperwork will eventually need to be filed with the court, an attorney may handle the process so that the clients do not need to enter the court themselves.

What if We Are Still Living in the Same House?

Couples in Texas are not necessarily required to live apart during divorce proceedings. However, living apart for three years is one of the grounds for divorce in at-fault divorce proceedings, so remaining under the same roof can affect your options for a contested divorce. Moreover, co-habitation can increase the opportunities for conflict and complications. In most cases, it is advisable to establish separate living arrangements, even if that means temporarily creating separate, distinct spaces within the same building.

 If there is any potential for domestic violence, the couple should not remain in the same house. A family violence lawyer could seek a court order requiring the abusive spouse to leave the family home.

When You Have Questions, Our Dedicated Divorce Attorneys Can Provide the Answers

The COVID crisis turned everyone’s lives upside down in a variety of ways. If you are considering divorce or have family law issues, it is important to understand that you still have options for moving forward and putting your life back on track. To speak to one of our dedicated legal advisors, contact us now for a free consultation.