When I heard the term “Flattening the Curve” associated with COVID 19, it was eerily familiar, with great resonance.
Divorce is about flattening a different kind of curve. Instead of spreading out medical care, divorce professionals spread out the financial and emotional impact of divorce on a family.
COVID is here; it is looking society straight in the eye; there is no averting its presence; it’s the stark reality, so too is divorce when it’s impending and underway. It’s about spreading the consequences out over time or mitigating them to make them more manageable so the parties can transition into a new norm.
How does that work in the real world? States have laws that govern divorce and essentially cushion people; they spread out the repercussions and soften the blow so that the transition is manageable — and neither party is left disadvantaged.
I associated divorce with flattening the curve when working with a client recently. It was a husband and wife with a marital home. The husband wanted a divorce and told the wife that he was moving out. Critically, he told her that he would only pay the mortgage for three more months. In that case, we were able to spread the transition over a longer period of time. He was in the wrong to threaten to leave her in the lurch when they had built a life together and assumed mutual responsibilities accordingly. He was not let off the hook from paying his obligations pursuant to his hasty timeline and we were able to provide the necessary cushion and adequate timeline for the parties’ mutual release of responsibilities to one another.
Another option that encourages flattening the curve of divorce is pendente lite and post-judgment maintenance and child support. Pendente lite simply means “during litigation” – it is to be paid while the case is ongoing, until the divorce is final. Post-judgment maintenance is tiered and paid out pursuant to the length of the marriage. Longer marriages yield longer pay-outs, with a marriage over 20 years, irrefutably dubbed a “long term marriage,” potentially promising a pay-out duration equivalent to half the length of the marriage, pursuant to the statute. Further, ancillary issues such as the ability of the payee to get up to speed on a career track and the parties’ respective ages and health issues are factors considered when determining maintenance amount and duration.
Interim agreements are another option to prevent drastic changes in the parties’ standard of living from happening too soon or harshly.
Cuomo has said about his relationship with Trump through this pressing Covid19 time that their personal differences and political orientations aside, when you are in a foxhole with someone, it doesn’t matter whether you like him or her, you are mutually single-focused in your aim to get out safely. Divorcing parties often share this sentiment when dealing with the IRS and taxes; even very litigious divorcing parties agree that they are on the same side as each other and “friends” to collaborate, align and save themselves tax dollars. The question is, “Are conflicted and divorcing couples also sharing this sentiment and approach in handling their conflicts, separation, and divorce through this time?” Are they in agreement that they must cooperate for the sake of each other’s well-being and the children’s to get everyone to the other side of this pandemic safely?
The answer varies.
Some parties say that the pandemic is making everything else – including their separation and divorces – seem so trivial. Others, overwhelmed as it is by the drastic and fundamental changes in daily living, feel further crushed by increased hostility and feeling out of control both internally and from their exes.
Maybe it can also be a time for us all to reflect on our own flexibility and willingness to negotiate? #quarantinegoals
Cheryl Stein, Esq.
The Law and Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein
745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 500
New York, NY 10151
Phone: (646) 884-2324