It is undisputed that divorce and separation are hard in normal times but with COVID-19 and its prolonged societal effects, the process is even more complicated and difficult.
The Courts now only hear and docket emergency family matters but in coming days they will become fully operational accepting divorce filings.
During this period though much can be done to prepare for a divorce filing. For those who are convinced that divorce is both unavoidable and inevitable, here are few logical and legal steps to follow to move closer to DC Divorce filing and finalization:
- As the DC Statute requires a separation period of 6 months before filing for divorce if mutually and voluntarily, and one year if NOT mutually and voluntary, it is advisable to commence the separation period as soon as possible. It is important to note that separation period can commence if parties remain in the same household as long as each party pursues a separate life, not sharing bed or board. It is always better though to have a physical separation as well that is having different households, it simply reduces conflict.
- Deconstruct your financial marital entanglements and sort out what is technically marital property and what is not. Generally, a valid prenuptial agreement would provide guideline and instructions but in absence of that – parties can trace funds used during marriage with property or other tangibles items and begin the process of dis-entanglement and provide some financial clarity. Keep in mind that the applicable legal doctrine is the equitable not equal distribution of marital property and during the divorce.
- Consider engaging with a marital counselor, mediator, or otherwise with alternative dispute resolution to reach an agreement on items that can be resolved short of litigation. This is particularly important if there are children involved and their physical and legal custody is at dispute. The court system is not a perfect arbitrator for what is in the best interests of your children. There is a great deal of imperfection built in the system and the parents with clear minds when putting the interests of their children above their own are in far better position to determine what is in the best interests of their children.
- At every stage of divorce and separation, particularly when children are involved, any evidence of domestic violence can tip the scale. There is a legal presumption of joint legal and physical custody in DC but that presumption is no longer applicable if there is claim or evidence of domestic violence. Thus, the accused party is charged with rebutting the presumption against him/her and generally it’s an uphill battle.
- Moreover, it is of paramount importance to have and to seek legal guidance from the outset and plan your divorce and separation ahead and with a firm legal strategy. The outcome could be significantly different with planning, guidance, and forethought.
Refer to our Washington DC Divorce Lawyer page for more detailed analysis of legal issues involved as well as other categories of DC family Law.