The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted our lives in so many ways, but the show must go on. That’s no exception when it comes to family law. Spouses unhappy in their marriages did not – and do not – have to put their divorces on hold.
In fact, divorce rates soared during the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic and there was a 34 percent increase in sales for divorce agreements compared to 2019. A combination of pandemic stress, including unemployment and quarantine, may have contributed to the uptick.
While courts have been closed throughout much of the past year, divorcing spouses have been settling out of court through alternate dispute resolution (ADR), which can include working with mediators, collaborative divorce professionals and financial professionals.
ADR has always been popular among couples wanting to expedite their divorce. Although courts are back in session, dates are still being pushed back making ADR a desirable alternative. And through modern technology, it’s also a safer option.
Instead of having to meet in person, couples and the involved professionals are connecting on their phones, computers and tablets through calls, Zoom meetings and video chats. This allows for flexible scheduling as all parties involved can meet from wherever they are – home or otherwise.
Virtual ADR also can help de-escalate the process. Because spouses are not concerned with getting yelled at in person, they can be more upfront and honest about their actual goals and concerns. If there is screaming, it can be stopped by pressing the "mute" button if needed. That being said, Zoom offers a “safe space” to communicate.
And the technology itself – particularly screen sharing capability – makes it easy for the professionals to walk all parties through massive documents, explaining all the details while eliminating confusion. Settlement turnaround time actually is faster now as documentation collection is done with uploads through secure platforms such as Dropbox.
In short, there is light at the end of the tunnel for spouses who have had irreconcilable differences for years, as well as those who just can’t take it anymore following the combination of quarantine life, wavering finances, illnesses, deaths of loved ones, mental illness and/or child care issues during the pandemic.
Couples who are unhappily married don’t have to wait to get divorced. And they can do so more amicably through ADR, which can save time, money and emotional pain throughout the process.
Steven F. Bryant is a Severna Park native and certified divorce financial analyst who protects the financial security of divorcing spouses by equitably dividing their marital property outside of court. He is the founder of Synergy Divorce Solutions, an Annapolis-based boutique financial firm that concentrates in divorce planning, financial mediation and settlement analysis services. For more information, visit www.synergydivorcesolutions.com or call 410-202-8977.