As we enter the second month of the COVID-19 shutdown, a number of people have reached out to me to find out what their options are for moving forward with a divorce or legal separation. Some have expressed that an overabundance of togetherness during quarantine has brought the issues in their marriage to a head. Others have expressed that this crisis has made them rethink their priorities and they want to make a fresh start. For those looking to make the leap, here is the landscape of divorce in Colorado during the Corona Virus quarantine:
Colorado courts are currently closed on domestic matters for all except emergency hearings such as protection orders and emergency motions to restrict parenting time. That said, we are still able to file and serve Petitions for divorce and legal separation, gather and exchange the mandatory financial disclosures, issue discovery, attend mediations and prepare settlement documents, and receive decrees of dissolution of marriage and legal separation in cases where the parties have negotiated a complete settlement of all issues. Most mediators are conducting mediations via Zoom or other virtual conferencing platform and this has proven very successful. Similarly, Collaborative Divorce cases are moving forward with the collaborative meetings being held via video conferencing. Since the large majority of all cases settle before going to a contested hearing in front of a judge, the shutdown has not negatively affected the majority of our caseload.
For those cases where it is clear that the parties will not be able to settle, the courts are re-scheduling contested permanent orders hearings at the end of May and through the summer. A case filed today could be heard as early July or August, or it could be bumped out several months, depending on the jurisdiction. Since cases involving complex issues such as business valuations, trusts or premarital agreements often take longer than the 90-day minimum waiting period, it is likely that the timeline of many divorces will not be extraordinarily disrupted by the shutdown. In addition, having an extra month or two to work on settlement is not a bad thing considering the high cost of going to a contested hearing. Finally, I’ve noticed a marked trend towards less conflict during this shutdown. Despite a few early hiccups with parents seeking to withhold children from regular parenting time with the other parent, many people seem to be making better choices under trying circumstances.
So, the short answer is that if you feel the need to file for divorce or legal separation now, you can do so. Divorce is never easy and there is never a perfect time to do so. When you are ready, we are here and we are able to provide initial consultations via your preferred videoconferencing platform.