Various sources have reported an anticipated increase in divorces stemming from COVID-19. Stay-at-home orders force couples to spend all day every day together, creating or exacerbating tension; people are struggling with job loss; parents are overwhelmed with having kids at home instead of school.
But whether the pandemic contributes to your decision to divorce or not, it can affect the divorce process. Below are some ways COVID-19 could impact your experience navigating the legal process to end your marriage.
You may have to wait longer
Courts are slowly reopening and resuming operations across Ontario. This gradual process means that your specific case can take longer to work through the system, particularly if it does not require immediate action.
Courthouses and courtrooms in your area may be closed or only hearing certain types of cases between now and November, which is when the Ministry of the Attorney General intends to have all courts back to regular operations.
Protections for vulnerable family members have been delayed
Provincial and territorial governments have delayed legislative reforms affecting children and victims of violence. The changes include a comprehensive definition of family abuse and violence and require courts to take into consideration a history of violence or abuse in matters regarding parenting.
Instead of going into effect in July, they will not go into effect until March 1, 2021.
If you or your child are victims of abuse or violence, this could be concerning. However, while judges do not have to comply with the reforms until next year, many will likely choose to consider violence when ruling on parenting matters.
You may not see the inside of a courtroom – or a mediation space
Again, courtrooms are still closed. And even those that are open are restricting specific parties from entering the premises. Virtual courts are an option in cases where videoconferencing is available, meaning you could make your court appearance without leaving your home.
As such, you may never see the inside of a courtroom.
Further, video chat apps and programs allow parties to meet with their lawyer or negotiate a settlement virtually.
When you know how the COVID-19 pandemic could affect your divorce or any other family legal matter, you can adjust your expectations and plan ahead, which can be critical in these situations.