family savings

Should You Move Forward with Your Divorce or Wait?

Despite the tensions brought on by the pandemic, a number of couples are waiting right now, with good reason.

Over the last several months, therapists have seen more marital conflict due to COVID-19. It turns out that, for couples who already have cracks in their marriage, being cooped up together, 24/7, is like putting salt on an open wound.

However, not all unhappy couples are running to divorce lawyers. Robert Moses, a top matrimonial attorney with Moses Ziegelman Richards & Notaro in New York City, reports that he has not seen a stampede of new clients. “Many of my colleagues have not seen a great uptick yet in new divorce matters right now, but it is the summertime. It’s possible that when the weather gets worse people will not want to stay cooped up with a spouse they want to divorce.”  

Aside from the weather, there are several other reasons why many are staying put, deciding to defer the date of their divorce.

Housing issues are holding couples together 

Many couples decided to escape urban life during quarantine, landing in the suburbs, and beyond. According to a recent Harris Poll, 39% of Americans are considering moving to less crowded cities due to the pandemic. They are putting down roots, enrolling their kids in these school districts, and waiting to divorce until there is more clarity around the COVID situation, later in the year. There are just too many variables for these families to know where they will end up living, long-term. Starting a divorce action in their current location would not be ideal if the family decided to move back to their city of origin. 

Also, the expense of these moves can be astronomical. Savvy landlords and sellers have increased prices in the countryside, knowing city dwellers are desperate to find space, access to the outdoors, and a better quality of life for their kids. Areas outside of New York City like Westport, Conn., are reporting houses sold within hours of market listing, and some even igniting bidding wars between buyers. With sky-high real estate prices, many families do not have the extra cash flow to purchase or rent a second property for the other spouse. Divorcing, now would mean that the family would not be able to live as they are accustomed to, making dealing with the quarantine's difficulties even more strenuous. 

Life is already hard enough

During the pandemic, many have been struggling to maintain their mental stability. They wonder how to keep it together with social distancing, remote learning, career demands and a lack of child care. Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center found that the pandemic has had a worrisome negative impact on families’ physical and emotional well-being. The researchers are worried most for mothers and all parents of younger kids, who have been hit the hardest by these mental health struggles. 

Moses works with celebrities, high-net-worth individuals and those of more modest means. He is seeing couples across all economic strata suffering now. Moses shares, “Some spouses are worried that if they moved forward now on their divorce, it would make their situation worse. Others worry that leaving would put their partner and children in an even more difficult situation.”  

Don’t divorce when your spouse is out of work

Courts primarily consider earned income or compensation from an employer or business to calculate child support and spousal support. It may be wise to wait to start proceedings if your spouse is one of the 17.3 million people receiving government aid because they were laid off or furloughed. 

While laws vary depending on your state, and judges have some leeway in making these determinations, a substantial income reduction will not help your circumstances in divorce. Natalie Colley, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® at Francis Financial, is especially concerned for female clients who have not worked in years. Colley shares, “Women who have not worked outside of the home need additional time and money to retrain and hone their skills to re-enter the workforce and earn a decent living wage. While the court can impute income to their jobless spouse for the purpose of calculating support, it is not a good situation.” 

Divorce matters long-term

While it is clear that COVID-19 is impacting couples in many ways, it is less clear how the pandemic will affect the number of separating couples in the coming years. Much will be determined by how quickly we can all return to “normal.” Moses shares, “This pandemic  is like nothing any of us have ever seen, before, in our lifetimes. How it will affect divorce matters in the upcoming year is unknown, much like everything else in this alternate world we are now living in."

About the Author

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA®, CES™

President & CEO, Francis Financial Inc.

Stacy is a nationally recognized financial expert and the President and CEO of Francis Financial Inc., which she founded 15 years ago. She is a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) who provides advice to women going through transitions, such as divorce, widowhood and sudden wealth. She is also the founder of Savvy Ladies™, a nonprofit that has provided free personal finance education and resources to over 15,000 women.

Most Popular

5 Best Dow Dividend Stocks to Buy Now
blue chip stocks

5 Best Dow Dividend Stocks to Buy Now

This mini-portfolio of blue-chip dividend payers is well-positioned to both generate income and hold up to headwinds for the rest of 2022.
June 27, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
Top Bear Market Tips from 10 Financial Advisers
investing

Top Bear Market Tips from 10 Financial Advisers

When a bull market turns into a bear market, it can be hard to know what to do. Take comfort in the guidance of 10 financial professionals.
June 30, 2022

Recommended

6 Ways Your Lawyer (and You) Can Screw Up Your Family Law Case
Divorce

6 Ways Your Lawyer (and You) Can Screw Up Your Family Law Case

Nothing hits closer to home than divorce and child custody cases. When lawyers get involved, things can go horribly wrong if you make these six common…
July 2, 2022
Protecting Your Home from Lawsuits with a Dynasty Trust
real estate

Protecting Your Home from Lawsuits with a Dynasty Trust

An irrevocable dynasty trust can play a valuable role in keeping the valuable equity in your home safe from personal and business-related lawsuits.
July 1, 2022
The Best Way for Kids to Save Isn’t in a Boring Bank Account
Roth IRAs

The Best Way for Kids to Save Isn’t in a Boring Bank Account

What’s better? A Roth IRA! Here’s why.
July 1, 2022
Financial Advice from America’s Founding Fathers
credit & debt

Financial Advice from America’s Founding Fathers

What money-management guidance can we glean from the words — and experience — of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and others?
June 30, 2022