This segment provides legal information about physically separating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of us here at Boutet Family Law and Mediation are dedicated to providing speedy and efficient legal and mediation services to help families get through their separation with dignity.
Q: Families that want to separate during social isolation and during the covid crisis don’t know where to turn or what to do. What advice do you give them?
A: I first want to send my best wishes to all families during this period.
We are living under unthinkable circumstances but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We will get through this.
These are very unstable times for everyone and even more so for couples that are at a cross-road in their relationship.
My advice is to find professionals that can help them quickly.
Many counsellors, lawyers, financial planners and mediators offer their services by phone or videoconference.
I recommend that people act fairly quickly because families need to be guided towards solutions before the tension becomes too high in the house.
Children are especially vulnerable, and we want families to be informed about what’s best for them before they get too far into anger and conflict.
Q: If it becomes too tense in the residence and someone needs to leave, are people able to find short term accommodation during social isolation and the pandemic?
A: I spoke with several advisors who work in real estate and they indicated that there are short term rentals available.
The protocols for finding an apartment are a bit different than before.
Rentals are now shown virtually and only people with serious offers to lease may be able to attend in person to see the place before finalizing the offer to lease.
If this is where you are at, your family law lawyer or real estate agent can guide you.
Q: If there are children involved with the separating couple, is it better to stay all together under the same roof even if there is a lot of acrimony, or is it better that the couple live physically apart?
A: This is a very important question.
There may be harm to the children’s well being if the family stays under tense circumstances and there may be harm to the children if a parent leaves without a formal parenting plan in place.
This is one of the reasons why I indicated before that it is important to consult with a legal professional or with a mediator as soon as possible.
Q: How do people arrange their finances if someone moves out, for example, who pays for the house expenses and for the children’s expenses during that period of separation?
A: Families do get into a lot of conflict about money.
Especially if things are tight and even more so if someone’s work was affected by the pandemic and the shutting down of businesses.
There is no one size fits all solution, but there are many ways of doing it.
It depends on a number of factors including who has financial resources.
Sometimes it makes sense to continue the same arrangements that were in place before the decision to separate was in place until professionals can guide the family towards different arrangements.
Sometimes couples put an agreed amount of money in a joint account and use that to pay family expenses until there is a more long term arrangement in place.
Family laws are fairly complex when it comes to finances and money, and it is recommended to speak to a family law lawyer or mediator for these kinds of questions.
I am working on a case right now as a mediator, and the family has decided to separate but to stay in the same house for about a year, until their child reaches a certain milestone at school.
They are using mediation services to sort out what would be more advantageous from a personal and also a tax point of view.
They are exploring having one person paying spousal support to use the tax laws associated with that and have the person who receives support use the support amounts to pay some of the family expenses.
But that sort of arrangement needs to be arranged with professionals who understand family laws and tax laws to make sure that the arrangement meets the legal requirements.
Q: You mentioned mediation many times during this interview. What are the different types of services that are available to separating families?
These two systems help families reach agreements out of court and help to preserve some kind of relationship after the legal process is done.
The total cost tends to be less in these two methods than in Court.
The professionals that work in these two systems have received special negotiation and communication training to help their clients and families using specialized negotiation techniques that are very beneficial to families.
Especially during the pandemic when the courts are closed, these methods offer fantastic avenues for all couples, even the ones that did not think that their conflict could be resolved out of court.
Right now, they have no choice because only the separating families with urgent matters can access the courts.
Thanks to collaborative negotiation and mediation, families can quickly get help and find solutions to their divorce.