There is speculation that the shelter in place directives around the Country may result in a spike in divorce filings as things progress. Couples are being forced to spend more time together in close proximity which may exacerbate relationship challenges. While the jury is out on that eventuality, I have been working with couples who had been planning for divorce prior to COVID-19 and now want to take advantage of the extra time on their hands to get the business of it handled. The Courts are closed so no formal divorce paperwork is being processed at this time. I am helping couples move forward with reaching agreements which will be filed once the Courts are available. A big question I have been asked recently is … what options are couples able to pursue during this time as it relates to the family home?
While couples can get creative through the Divorce Mediation process on how they handle what takes place with their home, the common options are to keep the house until either spouse wants to dispose of it, one spouse can proceed with refinancing and buying out the other spouse’s interest, or the couple can agree to have the house sold. I focus here on how refinancing and selling has been impacted by the current state of things.
Buying and Selling: So, what is happening with the housing market during this time? I spoke with Sarah Heck, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker West in Bonita, who pointed out that the buying and selling of homes is an essential service under the shelter in place orders and her work continues. “We have adapted to address the current health concerns by relying more heavily on virtual tours and online showings. We are requiring pre-qualifying of prospective buyers so that when we do show properties, we are only bringing in serious candidates. We are staggering showings and using gloves, face masks and opening doors for viewers to minimize health risks.” Sarah mentions that despite the financial uncertainty of the time, it continues to be a seller’s market with limited inventory and motivated buyers. Given this update, divorcing couples do continue to have the option to move forward with the sale of their home if that is how they choose to proceed.
Refinancing. Interest rates are at all-time lows but are refinances moving forward during this time? To answer this question, I spoke with Cristen Carver of Intercap Lending in Mission Valley. “This has been a very busy time in the lending industry. Rates are at all-time lows and we are finding ways to get the loans completed. We have worked to build a network of escrow partners, appraisers and other real estate professionals who will work through quarantine issues and other health concerns. I have heard that other lenders have either suspended or are experiencing delays with loan processing, but the ability to get a timely loan continues, you just have to look for the right lender.” Divorcing couples are finding that it is a good time to proceed with one spouse refinancing to buy out the other to resolve their house division issues.
Some Other Considerations. If you choose to proceed with resolving your divorce issues during this time when the Courts are closed, it is important that you work with a Divorce Professional to figure out the best way to proceed. California has filing, disclosure, and writing requirements for the enforcement of agreements between spouses. As a mediator, I am finding creative ways to comply with these requirements while the Courts are closed. I have been working with couples and reaching agreements that will be recognized by the Court and incorporated into later Court filings. Stay safe and let me know when A Healthy Divorce can help you move forward with resolving your house division and other divorce related issues.