Q. My wife and I have been negotiating our divorce agreement for almost a year working carefully with our daughter’s therapist to cause as little disruption to her as possible. We have an agreement and suddenly my wife’s lawyer said we need to put the breaks on for a month because of a new court rule. I don’t know what the new rule is and fear it is just another ploy to prevent us from getting this done. I am so frustrated by the lack of progress I am almost ready to throw in the towel and just file for divorce – something I don’t feel great about but I don’t know how else to move forward.
Do you have any other suggestions before I move forward with a contested divorce?
A. Given the timing of her putting on the breaks, I suspect the new rule is the change in the Probate and Family Court Standing Order 2-16 which takes effect September 1, 2021. For many years, all couples with minor children going through a divorce were required to take a Parent Education course approved by the state. This program raised a lot of questions, not the least of which being – if the parties have a good co-parenting relationship and have agreed on all child related provisions [which many people do] why would they have to spend the extra time and money to take a class to teach to do what they are already doing? Many such clients of mine over the years have expressed frustration – especially when their schedules made it hard to attend the classes.
Under the suspension order, if you file for divorce after July 12, 2021, you are no longer obligated to take the course. However, if you file before July 12, 2021, not only are you still required to take the course, but the time frame in which to do so is accelerated. So, the big question is – did you take the course and get your yellow certificate? Did your wife? If not, I think you have your answer regarding this sudden need to halt the process. Rather than stress over the mystery – I suggest you reach out to your wife’s lawyer and ask if this is why she wants to hold things up. Assuming that is the case, suggest signing everything now and just waiting to file until July 12th. There is no harm in signing papers now.
If for some reason you learn there is another reason for halting the process, before you throw the last year of your time in the trash bin, calmly express your frustration and your feeling of needing to move forward in some way. Chances are they will not want the last year to have been a waste either and you can come up with a plan to move this across the finish line together.