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COVID-19 and divorce: Lessons from a high-profile case

Mary-Kate Olsen is known for her role as a mischievous youngster on the popular television show Full House in the late 1980s. Since then, in addition to acting, she has grown a successful career as a fashion designer and producer. In addition, she became married to Olivier Sarkozy in 2015.

Unfortunately, on April 17, 2020, she filed for divorce. Like many who are pursuing divorce, she has experienced some hurdles, evidencing how the current coronavirus pandemic has impacted every facet of our lives – even the most personal. In Ms. Olsen’s case, she filed for an emergency order out of fear she would lose her apartment because her soon to be ex-husband had terminated the lease. Like many court filings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the court denied the request, stating it did not qualify as an emergency.

The case, although high-profile, provides lessons for those attempting to navigate a divorce during these unprecedented times. For example, in the past and in the absence of a worldwide health emergency, someone in Ms. Olsen’s position would likely have had more success or at least had her day in court in a reasonable amount of time. However, with courts backed up and forced to prioritize cases, the protocol on how cases are scheduled and heard is different. Many courts are scheduling hearings remotely by video or telephone. Other courts are delaying the scheduling of cases. Resolution of legal matters are likely to be delayed and how cases are litigated will be different. To that end, patience is important. Everyone, including the court, is attempting to navigate a new normal. While the court is available for true emergencies, litigants must be prepared for things to take a bit longer then they would have if the courts were operating as usual. For these reasons, those seeking legal assistance are also encouraged to consider alternative resolutions such as mediation and arbitration.

If you are contemplating divorce or experiencing custody or support issues, please contact Maddox & Gerock to understand your rights and learn various strategies and options for resolution.

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