The Covid-19 lockdown has raised tensions for many couples on the verge of getting a divorce, said advisors who specializes in divorce matters.

The temporary shutdown of courthouses has only made a bad situation worse, as many have no choice but to hunker down a bit longer with their soon-to-be ex-spouse. And with that comes money talk, where the spouse in control of the finances begins to plead poverty, said Michelle Smith, a certified divorce mediator and the CEO of Source Financial Advisors, a wealth management firm in New York City.

“I am getting a ton of calls because people need help with strategy and separating myths from reality,” said Smith, who specializes in divorce financial matters. She explained that these clients are being fed information by their spouses that are scaring them and she is helping them to see if there is manipulation of data going on, and how she can move them forward with some binding agreement in the absence of court involvement.

Her call volume, she said, has jumped 33% to 40% since February.

Smith said she has been engaging in webinars on separating fact from fiction in divorce with a Covid-19 backdrop. “The advice isn’t necessarily different. It’s just heightened right now. I like to get back to how do we get you to resolve this together,” she said.

About 90% of the calls she gets comes from people who are not in control of the finances, which in many cases are women, Smith said. “And what I see from the spouse in control of the financial situation is unnecessary scaring, controlling and manipulating,” she said.

As an example, Smith said she had a call this week from a woman who was crying hysterically because she went on Instacart to get groceries delivered, as she usually does, and found out that her husband had cut off the credit card. The husband felt she was spending too much, even though the wife reminded him that they used to spend the same amount each night when they went to a restaurant.

“She had no credit in her own name. She thought the card was in her name, but like many women who lose control of the finances in marriage, she didn’t  realize that it was an additional card on his account and he cut her off,” Smith said. “So, there is a lot of games being played.”  

She added that the moneyed spouse will say things like, ‘I can’t pay alimony,’ ‘I can’t pay child support,’ ‘my business is worth zero. “Everything they would have hoped would be an excuse, they are using again,” Smith said.

Smith said in such cases it is important to know specifics such as total assets and income. And in the case of the spouse who is claiming that his business is worth zero, he had to have taken a PPP, she said. “So, we need to see the deposit of the PPP and understand what he is doing to keep everybody employed.” she said, noting that if he is using the money in the moment to save his business, it will still have value.

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