Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, has adversely impacted much of the nation, including California. To comply with “shelter-in-place” directives, courts across the state have begun conducting hearings remotely. Many individuals who are currently in the middle of a divorce proceeding or who have made the difficult decision to pursue a divorce are concerned about the effect COVID-19 will have on their ability to move forward. The coronavirus will not prevent you from filing for divorce in California, though it may provide some additional challenges. Our sympathetic and experienced Ventura divorce attorneys hope to answer any questions and concerns you have below.

Will the Coronavirus Quarantine Affect My Ability to File for Divorce in California?

Courts across the state have closed to comply with the “shelter-in-place” orders and to mitigate the spread and exposure of the virus. Obviously, the closures have had an impact on legal proceedings such as divorce. While the pandemic has presented new challenges, it has not rendered divorce impossible.

Alternative Dispute Options for California Couples Involved in Contested Divorces

The complexities of some divorces, including high-asset divorce, divorce with children, and same-sex divorce, often require court intervention to settle disputed matters. However, even before the advent of COVID-19, our attorneys saw the benefit of offering our divorce clients alternative options to settle contested issues.

Arbitration is an alternative that is less formal and more cost-effective than litigation. Under normal circumstances, arbitration is scheduled for times that are convenient for all parties, unlike a court hearing. This is helpful during the current crisis, as arbitration can be conducted remotely without much difficulty. Additionally, couples can determine the length and particulars of the arbitration procedure. Another benefit to California couples getting divorced is that arbitration proceedings are conducted in private, allowing the details to stay out of the public record. However, the final decision still rests with the appointed arbitrator, and their decision cannot be appealed.

Instead of lengthy litigation, another option is mediation. Mediation is less formal than arbitration and allows the disputing couple significant control over the outcome of their divorce. In fact, mediation requires the couple to come to a joint decision regarding any contested matter. While a mediator is present, their role is to facilitate negotiation and communication. The mediator will also draft the final agreement based on the terms decided by the couple. Mediation is especially helpful for disputes centered around children, since it can keep children away from contentious court hearings. Now that COVID-19 has limited the contested matters the courts will hear, mediation offers an alternative to couples.

Consequences of Delaying Your Divorce in California Due to the Coronavirus Quarantine

Sometimes disputes require court intervention. Because of COVID-19, courts across the state are experiencing delays in processing electronic filings and paperwork. If you are anticipating matters that will require the court’s attention, you should not be deterred from filing for divorce. Our skilled attorneys will thoroughly prepare all of the necessary documentation and motions to move your case through the challenges that the quarantine presents.

Besides increased delays in processing your paperwork, waiting to file for divorce because of COVID-19 could present other unforeseen issues. California remains a community property state, meaning that all property a couple acquires during their marriage is equally divided during a divorce. Community property also includes any debt the couple has incurred.

Courts define the date of separation as the cut-off date to determine community property and debt. If you delay your proceedings because of the coronavirus, your actions might be construed as an attempt at reconciliation. Your postponement could potentially shift the recognized separation date, resulting in additional unforeseen debt. If you have made the difficult decision to divorce, it is in your best interest to move forward with an experienced California divorce attorney.

Impact of the Coronavirus Quarantine on a California Summary Dissolution Divorce

California offers divorcing couples a streamlined process. If you and your spouse meet several qualifications, then you might be eligible for a summary dissolution. Because this process requires very little court intervention, the impact of the coronavirus on this process is significantly less than that on a typical divorce.

For a couple to be eligible for summary dissolution, they must have been married less than five years, own no real estate, and have no children. Furthermore, the divorcing spouses must agree on the distribution of property, waive all claims to spousal support, and have no other contested matters. Our California divorce attorneys can draft a property settlement agreement to file with the court, along with your divorce petition.

While your divorce may experience some delays due to the processing of paperwork, a summary dissolution does not require the court appearances associated with an ordinary divorce. Through this process, it typically takes about six months to receive the final divorce decree. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus quarantine, it may take additional time.

For Questions About Your Divorce, Call Our California Attorney for a Free Consultation

The impact of the coronavirus on all aspects of life in California, including the court system, is unprecedented. Our empathic and knowledgeable attorneys understand the emotional distress associated with divorce. A Santa Barbara divorce attorney at our Ventura family law firm wants to alleviate any of your concerns or worry regarding the divorce process and the effects of COVID-19. If you have made the difficult decision to divorce, then delaying the process may only further complicate your situation. Call the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC, at (805) 643-5555 for a free consultation regarding how the coronavirus quarantine might affect your divorce proceedings in California.