Considering a divorce? Closed courthouses don’t have to stop you

Courts are closed in the D.C. area during the coronavirus pandemic, but people planning to dissolve marriages don’t necessarily have to put those plans on hold.

“What we’re seeing is an uptick in mediation, which is really a great thing to consider,” said Dianne Nolin, managing partner of Argent Bridge Advisors in Virginia. “The process of mediation could end up costing less, and the process moves along more swiftly.”

Nolin said mediators using platforms such as Zoom and Skype can bring together all parties involved.

A lot of professionals such as mediators, attorneys, accountants and financial advisers all are available through virtual apps.

“To inform and support people that are going through a tough time during a tough time, right?” Nolin said.

Argent Bridge Advisors is the local host for a national nonprofit called Second Saturday that’s dedicated to providing people with the knowledge, support and resources needed to navigate the divorce process. Second Saturday webinars held nationwide can be found on their website.

Information and perspective shared by local experts that typically is offered as a seminar, now is
available as a free webinar.


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The webinar lasts three hours, Nolin said, in order to allow the experts to fully explore their subject matters.

“To really get into the details of what’s going to happen from a legal angle, from an emotional angle and a financial angle,” Nolin said.

There also are live sessions offered monthly where you can submit questions before or during the webinar. Those interested in the sessions can register in advance for the May 13 webinar on their website.

Information is power when it comes to divorce. So, Nolin said first and foremost: Educate yourself. “This is the time to be digging in and finding out more about, generally, the family balance sheet,” Nolin said.

She gave the following tips:

  • How much do you and your spouse earn?
  • How much do you owe to credit cards, car loans or the mortgage?
  • Review copies of prior-year tax returns.
  • Check investment accounts such as stocks that aren’t in retirement accounts.
  • Learn exactly how much you have saved in retirement accounts such as 401(k) and IRA.

“Liquidity is a big issue for couples going through a divorce,” Nolin said.

She added people considering divorce should make sure their partners haven’t withdrawn retirement savings that have been impacted by measures in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act.

The CARES Act eliminates the 10% early withdrawal penalty and 20% federal tax withholding from early 401(k) withdrawals for people impacted by the coronavirus crisis. And, taxes on the money can be paid over three years.

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