You’ve been in quarantine with your spouse for six weeks, and you’re seriously considering filing for divorce. One question to consider prior to filing is: “What is my plan?” That question may seem almost unanswerable right now. Six weeks ago, we all had plans which were then derailed by COVID-19. Within a matter of days, children were home from schools; spouses were confined to the home; and divorced parents had to adjust possession schedules. The past weeks with your spouse may have further strained an already difficult relationship. Before rushing to file for divorce, consider the following:
What financial resources are available?
Generally, when you file for divorce, you ask the court to allow one spouse to stay in the marital residence and order the other spouse to move out. This is done at a temporary orders hearing. In order for your spouse to move out, however, the financial resources have to be available to support a second home like an apartment or rental house. As many as 78% of families live paycheck to paycheck. This can make it difficult to support two households, especially if one spouse lost a job in the past six weeks. Consider the financial logistics prior to filing for divorce. You may also need to consider alternatives to two separate and independent households such as moving in with relatives.
Can both spouses continue to reside in one home during divorce?
Even before COVID-19, many spouses chose to remain in one residence until the divorce finalized. Now, spouses are having to remain in one residence due to financial constraints; needing to sell the residence; or needing to give a spouse time to find a new job. There are many reasons why spouses choose to remain in one house until the divorce is finalized. As long as you and your spouse are able to cohabitate without endangering yourself or your children, and as long as a court has not ordered otherwise, there is no rule that says you can’t remain in the same residence.
How is child support going to be affected if my spouse lost a job?
The child support amount that can be ordered will be affected if the paying spouse is currently unemployed. The amount of child support ordered is a mathematical calculation set forth in the Texas Family Code. If the person ordered to pay child support is receiving unemployment benefits, the child support will be set based on the unemployment benefit amount. This is most likely less child support than if child support were calculated based on the paying spouse’s prior salary. Once child support is ordered in a final order, it generally cannot be changed for three years or until the new child support amount differs by $100 or 20%. Changing child support requires a modification, however, which is a new litigation with its own set of expenses. Analyze whether your spouse is going to have a new job in a few months. This may impact your decision of when to file for divorce.
What about the retirement accounts and investments?
Everyone’s retirement account took a major hit the past two months. An account that was worth $100,000 may now only be worth $60,000. Other stock and mutual fund accounts may be valued significantly less too. An account that was worth $100,000 may now only be worth $60,000. Other stock and mutual fund accounts may be valued significantly less too. The court will make a just and right division based on all the community property. The court can only divide the property that exists though. It cannot take into account that the community estate may have been worth $40,000 more in February 2020.
Another consideration is that most counties have Standing Orders that go into place when a divorce is filed. One standing order is that you cannot take money from retirement accounts without the agreement of the other spouse or an order of the court. Keep in mind that unless your spouse agrees to withdraw retirement account funds, you may not be able to access those funds once the divorce is filed until there is a hearing on the issue.
Despite all the considerations, the highest priority is the safety of you and your children. If you are in a domestic abuse situation, you can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7223). Don’t let the logistics of a divorce prevent you from getting out of a violent relationship. There are many variables when considering divorce, and you want to be prepared before making a decision.