No one saw this coming.  No one planned for divorce during coronavirus, divorce during quarantine, Zoom meetings for divorce consultations or social distancing in courtrooms.  Even in normal circumstances divorce isn’t the same for any two people.  The coronavirus pandemic has given everyone some unique stories of pivoting in our new world, and divorce in Denton County looks different, but is still happening.  People are wondering if they can get divorced now, and if so, how will it work, and what will it look like.

Denton County Divorce

Let’s start at the beginning. In Texas, and specifically Denton County, our Judges and courts are still working.  The District Clerk’s Office is still open and divorce cases can still be filed.  Divorce attorneys have been using electronic filing (efiling) for years, and I haven’t even experienced a hiccup in efiling an Original Petition for Divorce during the quarantine or after.  The beauty of efiling has been that it has allowed divorce lawyers to file more documents than we did pre-pandemic, and judges and their staff can review and work on the documents  and cases remotely.

The Denton County District Clerk’s website has links to the Supreme Court Emergency Orders and the COVID-19 Operating Plan for our courts.  The judges and their staff are taking precautions and necessary restrictions to ensure their health and safety as well as the health and safety of anyone attending court.  The judges and their staff members are conducting their jobs remotely to the extent that they are able to do so including wearing face masks, practicing social distancing and recommended hygiene practices as recommended by Denton County Public Health Department.

Denton County judges can require remote hearings for both essential and nonessential types of hearings in cases.  The remote hearings are being conducted using Zoom and being made available for public access using YouTube to see the live proceedings.

This can affect a hearing in a divorce case.  A hearing may be necessary to keep the divorce moving, and still be deemed nonessential by the Court’s rules.  Therefore, the type of question at the heart of the issue in each case will determine what happens next, how quickly it can happen and the logistics of how a hearing will happen.

And, you can see the updates I got from a local realtor about buying and selling a house right now on my YouTube channel.

Negotiation and Online Mediation

Negotiations in cases can continue and has continued between parties directly and between attorneys.  Divorce negotiations during coronavirus should continue on like normal. Family law attorneys can and do negotiate via email and phone calls and could meet via an online platform for a settlement conference.

Online mediation is an excellent option for reaching agreements in divorce and family law cases during COVID-19.  Family law mediators and divorce mediators are taking their mediation skills to online platforms like Zoom.  I’ve taken advantage of my time in quarantine to take online mediation training to increase the benefits I can offer in my online mediations and have seen benefits for my online mediation clients.

Agreed Divorce

Concluding a divorce during the Coronavirus pandemic can be very straightforward.  When spouses are able to reach settlement agreements to conclude their divorce, the Agreed Final Decree of Divorce can be submitted for the Judge’s review and consideration, with additional required documents, and the divorce granted.  Some people are focusing on the business of divorce, and working through emotional issues separately to conclude their divorce as efficiently and minimize costs.

Another new offering in my office are fixed fees (sometimes call flat fees).  Fixed fees don’t mean minimal service and  the cheapest divorce.  Rather, fixed fees are certainty.  Fixed fees give clients certainty of the expense and freedom to communicate with your lawyer during uncertain times and ask questions when those things feel out of control.

Our Denton County courts are continuing to conclude divorce and family law cases.  I’ve continued to work on cases by offering fixed fees in divorce, negotiation, online mediation, negotiation and using efiling submissions of agreed orders.

If you’d like to talk about divorce during COVID-19, online mediation, agreed divorce, I am happy to meet with you by phone or using Zoom. Call today and we’ll schedule your consultation -972-203-6644.

Jill O’Connell