North Carolina is currently still under a coronavirus-related shutdown order since March 30th. North Carolina’s governor is under increasing pressure to re-open the state soon. Some lawmakers are putting forward a bill that would remove any criminal penalties against people who violate the shutdown order.
It remains to be seen when, exactly, North Carolina will be completely opened back up. Residents of North Carolina who are going through a divorce or considering divorce are considering settling their divorces outside of court during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are considering a divorce, you might be asking yourself if you should go ahead with the divorce process or wait? The answer, of course, depends on your unique circumstances.
Despite you, your spouse, and your attorneys being confined to home, your divorce can still move forward. You can achieve resolution through all of the following means:
We encourage many of our clients to attempt a collaborative divorce in normal circumstances. With the pressures put on families during the coronavirus pandemic, a collaborative divorce can be even more beneficial.
Even after the state of North Carolina becomes totally opened up, many people with pre-existing conditions, or who are above a certain age and at-risk might choose not to venture out. At Gailor Hunt Davis Taylor & Gibbs, PLLC, we are working hard to accommodate our clients and keep our clients and staff as safe as possible.
We understand that divorces cannot always wait for the coronavirus pandemic to be over. That is why we have developed the following steps to help our clients get the separation, and/or divorce process started:
On March 13, 2020, the Chief Justice Beasley of the North Carolina Supreme Court issued an order that stopped business as usual in the North Carolina court system. The Court is not hearing cases that are not emergencies, such as domestic violence protective orders, cases involving abuse or negligence, and juvenile court custody orders. All other orders have been postponed. North Carolina courts have given a few hearing dates in May and June, but they are still quite backlogged.
Mediations have also been postponed. Even though hearings have been delayed in Raleigh and throughout North Carolina, those who are considering divorce can still work on their cases. We can help you negotiate an out-of-court divorce settlement during the shutdown. Even if you had not considered negotiating an out-of-court divorce settlement, trying to do so is even more important, given the delays that are currently happening in the North Carolina court system.
For example, the divorce process requires that you gather many financial documents. Taking the time to do all of your prep work while you are at home, with the help of your lawyer can help your case going forward. Also, taking the time to think about what is most important in your life is always beneficial before beginning the divorce process.
Take some time to consider what your goals are for after your divorce becomes finalized. For example, consider whether it is important for you to stay in the house. Or, consider what type of child custody arrangement you would prefer. Also, consider what aspects of your divorce you would be willing to compromise on and which aspects are non-negotiable. Spending time at home and without the business of commuting might give you more of an opportunity to prioritize your goals and reflect while you begin the process of the divorce.
At Gailor Hunt Davis Taylor & Gibbs, PLLC, we are currently working with clients to facilitate mediation at home. We are able to conduct videoconferencing and the ability to obtain signatures digitally. These steps aid North Carolina mediators to move forward while people are working remotely. There is actually very little difference between meeting remotely and meeting in person when it comes to the mediation process.
In a virtual mediation, each spouse will be placed in a virtual room with his or her respective attorney. The mediator will switch between each spouse’s virtual room, carrying offers back and forth. When it is appropriate, the mediator will nicely challenge each party’s viewpoint in an attempt to move them closer to an agreement.
The focus of a mediated settlement agreement is to settle all of the issues related to your divorce, so you can finalize your divorce out of court and then ask the judge to make the settlement legally binding. When both spouses reach an agreement during mediation, the agreement will be called a “Mediated Settlement Agreement.” The parties will be able to sign the Agreement electronically. A judge will still need to reduce the final order so that a judge can sign the order.
Even if you are not interested in going through formal divorce mediation, you can still begin the divorce process. For example, after you call our firm, we can advise you as to what you can do to begin the process. We will help you understand which financial documents and other documents you need to gather that will be important.
We can also begin to help you develop a strategy for your divorce, whether you anticipate the divorce to be highly litigious or collaborative. The shutdown order does not need to stop you from beginning the separation and/or divorce process. Contact our law firm as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.