How will divorce change across America in the coming year? Jacqueline Newman, a managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP and author of the new book “The New Rules Of Divorce: 12 Secrets to Protecting Your Wealth, Health, and Happiness,” has revealed her top five predictions for divorce in 2021. 

1. Divorce rates will jump in 2021. There are many people who are waiting for the world to normalize before they beeline to a divorce attorney’s office.  Quarantine has been challenging for even the strongest of couples, so for those marriages that were on the edge—this experience will push them right over. 

2. 50/50 parenting time will grow to be the norm. A typical reason why the primary custodial parent would argue against equal parenting time is that the parent who is not typically home with the children does not understand that Billy will only eat his PB&J sandwich if it is cut into star shapes and Zoey will only color with purple shaded crayons. However, now that in many households both parents have been home for the past nine months and both parents are learning their Children’s daily routines and likes and dislikes, those arguments will hold much less weight.    

3. There will be more motions seeking relocation. Many people have left the cities to find trees and the ability to easily stay at least six feet away from other people. Therefore, divorced and divorcing couples had to make adjustments to their parenting schedules and sacrifice weekly access to accommodate the fact that the parents may not necessarily live a few blocks away from each other anymore. People are going to get used to their new surroundings and I think that when the city schools reopen and the parent who remained in the city wants his/her children to come back, there will be many relocation motions claiming that it is in the best interests of the children to remain where they are.

4. There will be more disputes over parenting decisions. As if divorcing parents did not have enough to fight about, now we can add in disputes about what are appropriate COVID protocols (mask v. no mask, eating indoors vs. not, Ubers vs. subways, etc.). What happens when one parent insists that their child attends school in-person because the child needs socialization and paying $60K for a private school education feels wasteful when the classes are being held in their living room vs. the parent who feels that sending a child to school is dangerous? And soon there will be vaccine wars.

5. Mediation & Collaborative Law will become the divorce processes of choice. With divorce rates increasing and there being more motion practice over parenting issues, an already overloaded court system will become slower and more difficult to navigate. Court appearances and trials are now more virtual than not, but the backload from when the courts were almost closed at the beginning of the pandemic is still impacting the speed at which new motions are heard. People are going to want a venue to resolve their differences faster than what the Courts may be able to provide. Out-of-court process options, such as Mediation & Collaborative Law will become more reasonable and speedy alternatives to the traditional court system and I believe will be utilized much more in 2021.  



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