How to Handle Disputes & Divorce amid Coronavirus, According to Celebrity Lawyer Laura Wasser
With anxieties and tensions running high during the coronavirus pandemic, relationship and co-parenting issues might amplify during these trying times.
According to celebrity divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, the best way to handle mounting relationship and parenting tensions without having to involve lawyers or the court system is to try and utilize the three Cs: consideration, cooperation and communication.
“Adaptation and flexibility is key during this time,” says Wasser, 51. “A big part of this is the communication. Whenever there’s change, you have a situation where people are having to adapt to that change.”
The Los Angeles-based attorney — whose clients have included Jennifer Garner, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise and Kim Kardashian — says the biggest issue she’s seeing with her clients right now involves custody schedules and figuring out how non-custodial parents can still see their children without risking their safety.
“You really can’t share custody the way you did before [the COVID-19 outbreak],” she says. “We have to figure out how these custody schedules will work, facilitating that time and making it so that the noncustodial parent gets to see and hear from, and at least get a little bit of quality face time, literally, with the kids by Zoom or FaceTime.”
Wasser — who is also the CEO and founder of online divorce platform It’s Over Easy, designed to help couples dissolve their marriages in an accessible and affordable way — says it’s important to remember that although courts are closed, you can still work through or resolve legal issues via retired judges and mediators who are working remotely.
“You can schedule them anytime when your judicial officer’s willing to,” she says. “I had two settlement conferences today. One was via telephone and one was via Zoom. Those retired judges are still working, so we can get ahold of them and if we can schedule a time with them, we can actually have either mediation sessions or actual hearings virtually. The It’s Over Easy platform totally lends itself to that kind of mediation, and that has been really helpful.”
Does Wasser foresee a rise in divorces post-quarantine?
“We’ve had a little bit of a spike [in traffic] on It’s Over Easy, but that may not be because people are quarantined and realize they hate each other, but because they’re at home and actually the time to get to this [filing for divorce],” she says.
Wasser adds that the reports about China’s surge in divorce filings post-quarantine don’t necessarily mean that stay-home orders caused them, or that it will happen in the U.S.
RELATED VIDEO: Rita Wilson Celebrates Being a ‘COVID-19 Survivor’ and ‘Five Years Cancer Free’
“I read all of the stats about China and I think it’s interesting, but I also think you need to take it with a grain of salt,” she says. “One explanation is because all of those agencies were closed I think for three months, of course there was a spike afterwards. Under normal circumstances people probably would have been going [to file] and couldn’t go for three months. When you close something for three months, and then you open it up, of course there’s a spike.”
Wasser says that despite the fact that she is a divorce lawyer, she doesn’t advise anyone to rush into such a major life decision — especially during a pandemic.
“I would tell people don’t be too hasty just because your spouse is getting on your nerves during quarantine,” she says. “Give it a second when it’s done to figure out whether you really want to be divorced, or you really just are going to enjoy that space you have now. This is your opportunity to be able to say, ‘I gave it everything that I could when we were living under the same roof.'”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.