Continuing with your separation in a COVID-19 world

For those of you who are in the middle of separation and divorce, this uncertain time in our communities and world due to COVID-19 may create even more anxiety. What do we do now? How will our separation process move forward? What if a delay in the process leaves me financially vulnerable, due to employment issues or the state of the market?

If you are in litigation, you likely heard that the family courts at every level in BC have adjourned all trials and conferences and applications, except for the most urgent ones (see my colleague’s blog on what will be considered urgent). It is unknown at this time how long this hiatus will last.

So consider some other options.

Many lawyers, including those of us here at Connect Family Mediation, are still working at home and able to draft and help you negotiate a separation agreement. If your spouse is also eager to move things ahead, we can recommend other settlement-minded lawyers to your ex so that your family’s separation process can move forward, rather than continuing to live in the mounting stress of the in-between.

A separation agreement can even be signed remotely. As long as you are able to have someone over the age of 19 (anyone except your former spouse) witness your signature, then the lawyer can advise and sign with you over video conference. Last week I did this with a client who was outside on a patio so that even she and her witness could continue social distancing.

If you need some professional help reaching an agreement, a mediator can assist. Many mediators, including the two at Connect Family Mediation, can make themselves available on Skype or Zoom or by phone to complete the process of negotiating your separation agreement. Or, if you find you and your ex are struggling even with one discrete issue, a video conference with a mediator could make all the difference.

Another great option during this unprecedented time is collaborative divorce. If you and your spouse would like to each retain a settlement-minded lawyer who is committed to a non-adversarial and transparent process, then four-way meetings and conferences (with you and your ex and each of your lawyers) can all occur by phone or video. Because many of the collaborative professionals in the Vancouver area work together frequently, we can avoid all the posturing that occurs between some counsel and focus on streamlining our work to ensure an effective and efficient course of action.

Reaching a separation agreement does take compromise and hard work by both spouses, but it is well worth it, when you end up with a durable agreement created by the two people who know and understand your family and financial picture best…YOU!

While there may be a few situations where it might benefit you to “wait things out,” if your living situation is becoming untenable or you both have incentive to keep moving things forward, know there are great options available to you, even in the chaos around us.

If you have questions, or would like more information, please contact us.

About Rebecca Stanley

Lawyer/Mediator – Fraser Valley/Vancouver

The focus of my practice is to empower people as they navigate the unique stresses (and opportunities) that accompany significant life transitions. My clients have said that my calm, strength and wisdom provide a solid anchor in the sometimes stormy seas of separation and divorce. I feel fortunate to be part of the Connect team, a collective of legal professionals and staff who understand that it is a privilege to support families through times of challenge and transformation.