What changes to the world of divorce might we anticipate for the year 2022? As families continue to encounter pandemic realities and continue to navigate the “new normal”, what’s in store for the year ahead?
1. Divorce on the rise: While weddings are certain to be on the rise due to the postponement of many 2020-2021 events, many marriages will sadly fall victim to pandemic-related strain. Maneuvering COVID-related changes to our daily lives has been no easy feat, but for couples that began March 2020 on shaky ground, it may be especially difficult to continue withstand such upheaval. Unhappy spouses might be eager to begin their happier next chapter.
2. Fighting over finances: Spending patterns will likely increase as people are desperate to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. This may cause great conflict in some marriages when one spouse wants to continue to save, and the other spouse is ready to spend.
3. WFH= WAR: Litigation over monetary support will increase as many people have left the workforce or have downsized the scope of their prior employment. We may see a rise in child support modification cases as Work-From-Home policies and periodic school/extra-curricular activity closures beget new childcare needs.
4. Majority rules: As more young adults return home after college, there’s an increased likelihood of parents requesting additional child support past the age of emancipation. Further, new changes to New York Law concerning the extension of child support for children with special needs will likely lead to squabbles over whether children should receive support beyond the age of majority.
5. Pet problems: With the passage of New York’s “pet custody bill” last fall, Courts are now compelled to consider the best interests of a domesticated animal when determining which spouse should have possession, instead of considering pets to be marital property. In light of all of the newly welcomed pandemic pets, we’re sure to see families feuding over their companions.
6. Shots fired!: We’ve already started to see an uptick in litigation about vaccination -- for both parents and children -- in families where there is dissonance on this issue. To vax or not to vax, that will be the question!
7. Roles in transition: Many parents who, historically, were not involved in their children’s day-to-day routines are now home, present and involved. We’re sure to witness a continued shift towards 50/50 custody when both parents are increasingly taking on roles on the home front.
8. Decisions, decisions: Previously cooperative co-parenting arrangements may be upended when one parent attempts to micromanage decision-making, asserting they know the best way to protect their child from contracting COVID-19. Quarrels over COVID-questions are inevitable, including whether children should attend school in person or be homeschooled; whether a parent is sufficiently adhering to masking or quarantine protocols; which relatives and friends are “safe” for a child to spend time with; where and when traveling with children is appropriate, and so on.
9. On the move: Parents are sure to clash over one spouse’s desire to relocate. As cities continue to see a mass exodus to the ‘burbs as families seek greener pastures --potentially crossing state lines-- the landscape is ripe for a clash.
10. The fast lane: Our expectation is that more parties will elect Alternative Dispute Resolution/Mediation instead of litigation, so as to avoid the delays of our overburdened Court systems. If a divorce is sought, parties may be better poised to resolve their difficulties with a quicker, more cost-effective option.