Your divorce plans are likely to be temporarily on hold while in lock down, as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are still living with your spouse but have decided to pursue a divorce in the future, this may mean awkward times together in quarantine with someone you do not wish to be with anymore.
But unless family violence is a factor, it’s likely to be bearable…if only just! While we all feel a considerable loss of control due to current events, you can help yourself deal with the uncertainty of the situation by using this time to proactively prepare for your eventual divorce. Because in fact there is a fair amount that you can do already before you may need to involve courts or lawyers. Of course, if you do wish to get legal advice, you are still able to access solicitors (here at Alliance Family Law, we are still operating and can assist you virtually).
Here are some of the things you can spend some time doing now, without leaving the house, to get a jumpstart on your eventual divorce plans.
Practical and administrative tasks
- Information gathering and financial disclosure
It’s a given that the divvying up of your marital life involves a lot of paperwork. For your property settlement, you’ll ultimately be spending a fair bit of time gathering financial documents, agreements, receipts and so on. Now is the perfect time to get this organised, as your solicitor will eventually need you to provide a lot of information for your financial disclosure.
Doing as much of this grunt-work as you can yourself will cut down your solicitor’s billable hours—and after all there’s no need to pay a lawyer to do things you can do yourself. You can ask a family lawyer for their template and list of documents that they would require, and then begin the process of hunting down the documents and information yourself–such as mortgage documents, tax returns, and bank and credit card statements.
Make lists of assets and liabilities as well as lists of your belongings and their value ($500 or more). You can divide your lists into items which are in your name, your spouse’s name, in your joint names, or held jointly with others.
- Get everything organised
Organise all your documents and information in folders in a way that makes sense to you so that everything can be easily located at meetings with your lawyer.
As you go through your process of information gathering, also keep a note of any questions that arise that you would like answered by a lawyer.
- Have amicable discussions
If things are amicable between you and your spouse, have a discussion about personal property and how it might be divided. You could exchange lists of items you each want to keep and for things where you disagree, you could have a discussion about the true value of the item and how you might resolve its distribution. However, if this is only going to lead to arguments, please do avoid this subject while you are stuck in lockdown together. (You may also be preparing for a potential divorce before you have decided to tell your spouse of your plans, in which case you will obviously not want to discuss this issue at this stage.)
- Start preparing your chronology
A chronology is simply a document that sets out the significant events and facts regarding your relationship, and might relate to parenting or property issues or both. It’s a way of sharing your story in detail that provides a roadmap of the relationship and breakdown, providing all the important dates and events and brief summaries of what occurred on those dates.
Learn exactly how to prepare a chronology here.
- Begin drafting affidavits if they will be needed
Evidence in family law matters is usually given by way of affidavit. You can begin preparing an affidavit if you know it will probably be needed in your matter. The courts have forms you can download (check you have the correct court, and if you need advice, give us a call).
While away the quarantine hours by spending time seriously thinking about the costs you are likely to face in obtaining a divorce. You can gather quotes from lawyers by phoning them or researching their websites (which usually explain rates and fee structures—find ours here). This will help you compare rates and assess whether your anticipated budget would be reasonable. Your divorce costs will depend on numerous factors, including how complex your matter might be and how much conflict there is between you and your spouse.
Don’t forget that you have other options besides litigation—and these options are highly likely to save you time, money and stress. So make sure you spend some time researching your Alternative Dispute Resolution options (you may like to start by reading this blog for more information).
Apart from the expenses involved in going through divorce, you’ll need to plan out your budget for your new life after divorce. Work out your likely future needs and a future budget, because this will help you to arrive at your ideal settlement outcome.
- Other future considerations
Aside from finances, you can also spend time planning out potential practical considerations in terms of where you will live and how any parenting arrangements could be worked out.
Taking charge of self-care and mental health needs
- Virtual therapy
As we all struggle to deal with the current global crisis and the way our lives have had to adjust while we are put “on hold”, it’s more important than ever to seek out resources to process this challenging time. And this is even more so if you are facing the stress of a marital breakdown on top of everything. This includes finding therapeutic resources to help children. You may need to find professionals who can assist and deliver services by virtual means—luckily, in our times this is far easier than ever before.
- Focusing on practical tasks
It’s really beneficial being able to channel your energy into practical tasks that you know will move your divorce forward when things are back to normal (or to the new normal, whatever that will be). You’ll feel you are at least in control of your divorce process, even if you can’t control what’s happening in the world.
For family law advice, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.