CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

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In addition to slamming the economy and claiming lives, it appears the coronavirus is also claiming marriages.

In China, New York and elsewhere, there has been a substantial increase in filings and inquiries to attorneys from folks seeking divorce since the lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders. Being isolated in forced togetherness has a way of illuminating and amplifying marital discord. Another possible reason may be that declines in the stock market create a situation where wealthier spouses may consider this a better time to opt out while their net worth declines so as to avoid a larger settlement.

Currently, the courts in California are closed except for domestic violence filings so those who are ready to proceed have few options unless they opt for alternative process such as mediation. Working with a mediator, couples can manage the entire divorce process without ever having to step inside a court, and can typically resolve the issues far more quickly and at much less cost financially and emotionally.

Getting divorced, as anyone who has been through it knows, is far more complicated and costly than getting married. And that is for straight folks. For gay couples, it is far less straight forward. That’s the subject of a New York magazine cover story on gay divorce, entitled, “From I Do”, to ” I’m Done.” After describing the break-up of one gay couple — Kevin Muir and Sam Ritchie, who married in 2004 in Massachusetts — the piece highlights the many legal issues involved.

From “I do” to “I’m done”, thought often fraught with conflict and animus, can be a clear and well-understood process for straight couples. When their legal marriage is over, they understand they will need a legal divorce. But for gay couples, the promise of marriage is still so new and incomplete that the idea of divorce courts, property settlements, spousal support and all the rest is not on the radar. Who would consider the process of undoing a contract that until very recently you were not allowed to enter into. This is not the focus of marriage-equality advocates, but the gay divorce boom is imminent. In part because nearly 50,000 of the approximately 640,000 gay couples in 2011 were married. Julie and Hillary Goodridge, the lead plaintiffs in the Massachusetts same-sex marriage case, divorced in 2009.

According to LGBT think tank, the Williams Institute, about one percent of same-sex marriages dissolve each year, versus two percent for different-sex couples. But many observers expect the gay divorce rate to increase since many of the first gay couples to marry were the most long-term and stable ones.