It seems simple: difficult times put a strain on relationships, so more people should be breaking up. In some cases, this is true. Many people get divorced after periods of personal loss, difficult financial times, or infidelity. However, national and global events can stress relationships just as much as personal struggles while making it harder to get a divorce.
That’s what many people are finding out in Oregon during the pandemic. For several reasons, COVID-19 is forcing people to remain married when they don’t want to.
More Stress, Fewer Divorces?
The pandemic is one of the most significant global events in decades. It’s impossible to escape its effects. From the economic downturn during the early days of COVID-19 in the US to the continuing lockdowns, school closures, and mask mandates, it’s everywhere. It’s almost certainly affecting your relationship, too.
For example, if you or your spouse has lost a job or hours because of the pandemic, you’re probably experiencing financial stress. The fluctuating state of rent and mortgages freezes, student loan repayment, and stimulus payments only make it more complicated.
Financial problems are the most pervasive arguments in most marriages. Current circumstances can quickly transform common arguments into a reason for divorce.
The emotional stress of the pandemic is also a significant cause of marital problems. Spouses spend more time together than ever before and don’t have access to their usual social circles. You may notice that your partner is lashing out more often. You might even realize that your spouse is no longer the person you married. Plenty of people in Oregon already have.
Despite all of these stressors, divorce actually went down in Oregon in 2020. Early reports place the Oregon divorce rate at 24% lower in 2020 than in 2019. While that sounds like a good thing, it may actually be a symptom of a larger problem.
The same conditions that are breaking relationships throughout the country are also making it harder than ever to get the separation you need. Here’s how the pandemic has made the separation process harder than ever.
The Pandemic and the Oregon Court System
The most common response to the pandemic has been to institute social distancing measures. Most organizations have found ways to remain open and in operation with those measures. Still, following state and municipal rules regarding social distancing and safety have made it particularly difficult for the court system to operate.
There have been specific regulations put in place that affect Oregon courts, both criminal and civil alike. In May of 2020, Oregon court systems were placed on “Level 2” and “Level 3” restrictions. These restrictions required courts to hold proceedings only if social distancing could be appropriately maintained. In some cases, they stopped all trials through July 1st of 2020. Many of these closures lasted much longer. That made it impossible for people in the affected areas to get divorced at all.
As restrictions eased, civil cases were not prioritized. It was as recent as March 11th of this year when civil cases were permitted to return to in-person proceedings with masks and social distancing. This means that it’s now possible to get divorced again. However, there is a significant backlog of divorces that need to be processed before new proceedings can begin. Oregon’s social distancing measures are essentially forcing people to remain married long after the relationship has ended.
Navigating Uncertain Waters
While the court system is currently facing problems, you can still take steps to speed up your divorce. By working with your spouse in advance, you can keep the need for in-court deliberations to a minimum. With the high demand for court services, anything you can do to prepare in advance will make your divorce move forward faster.
The most important thing to sort out in advance is where you and your ex-spouse will live after you’re divorced. If you own a house together, one of you will likely buy out the other’s ownership and remain in the home. The other person will need to find a place to live.
If your relationship is still amicable, discuss housing with your partner, on your own, or with a 3rd party mediator. That way, the person who chooses to move out of the home can have housing lined up before the divorce goes through and won’t need to scramble in the difficult housing market caused by the pandemic.
You should also discuss how you’ll divide your assets after the divorce. Oregon divides marital property equitably, not equally, so there’s no requirement to split each support and account down the middle. Instead, you can work out an agreement that honors the contributions both of you have made to the relationship so far.
If you and your spouse can find a fair division of assets on your own or with the help of a mediator, the court will honor your agreement. You don’t need to wait for a judge to examine your finances, deliberate, and then write a court order. Instead, you can come in prepared and get precisely what you want as long as you can still collaborate.
Finally, child custody in Oregon can be complicated. The only way to guarantee that you get custody of your children is to agree to share custody with your partner. If either parent requests a child’s sole custody, then a judge must deliberate and assign full custody to one parent and visitation to the other. If you can decide what custody arrangement you want before you go to court, you can keep the process running smoothly.
Don’t Let the Pandemic Delay Your Divorce
Once you realize your relationship is ending, it’s natural to want to get things over with as quickly as possible. You don’t have to let the pandemic delay your divorce any more than it already has.
By working with your ex-partner and an experienced Oregon divorce attorney, you can take care of many details in advance. Reach out to the expert team at Regele Law, LLC to begin the process and regain your freedom today.