WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) — Breaking up is hard to do, but it’s even harder during a pandemic.
Divorces, according to one Bay Area family attorney, are taking twice as long to process after family courts shut down because of COVID-19.
“I typically think that a sort of standard divorce takes about 12 months from beginning to end, sometimes it can be faster,” said family and divorce attorney Camilla Cochran. “Now people who are filing today are probably looking at the end of 2021, if they’re lucky.”
Pearl Barlow is finding out that what Cochran is saying is true.
She filed for divorce in Contra Costa County in February. One month later, the state’s shelter-in-place order went into effect.
“The courts closed,” said Barlow. “I couldn’t call to get anymore information, they just said, ‘We’re closed, don’t call us, we’ll contact you once we reopen with a new court date.'”
The Martinez resident hoped she would be divorced before the end of the year, but now she’s afraid it could take up to two years.
“It’s very frustrating, and it’s just a waiting game for me, I feel like my life is put on hold,” she said.
Cochran said the Santa Clara County Family Court has just slowly begun to reopen, but on a limited basis.
“It’s not how it was before when there would be hundreds of cases heard everyday, now maybe you have twenty cases heard a day,” said Cochran.
She said in the best case scenario, for couples who file today and have no issues to settle, they likely won’t have their divorces finalized until sometime next year.
But for those couples who have yet to settle property, child custody and spousal support issues — the wait could be even longer.
Santa Clara County’s “aggressive” program that helps couples come to a settlement was also shut down, and is now back up and running on a limited remote basis, Cochran said.
“It’s very frustrating and I want to get it over with just like other divorcees,” said Barlow.
She finally received a court date for the end of July, which is five months after filing, not the typical four to five weeks. She said she wanted to be happy about finally getting a court date, but it was difficult.
“I’m in limbo,” Barlow said. “I just can’t move forward, move past this, when I just want it to be over.”