Hurricanes & Divorce
After Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida in 1992, the divorce rate in Dade County increased by thirty percent. In 2006, the year following Hurricane Katrina, the divorce rate in New Orleans increased by ten percent. One of the key issues cited for divorce was financial stress caused by the storm.
Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, can take a heavy toll on marriages. The aftermath these storms leave behind can significantly interrupt everyday life, causing not only economic stress for families but also emotional stress such as anxiety and depression. Recovery from a natural disaster can be a long, arduous process.
If a hurricane strikes and starts to take a toll on your marriage, you and your partner may be able to work together and salvage the relationship. Everyone reacts differently to tragic events, so it’s important to realize your spouse’s coping mechanisms may be different than yours. Community resources and government aid can assist you in finding counselors who specialize in disaster related traumas. These specialists may be able to help you repair from the storm as a couple.
If you are in the midst of a divorce when a hurricane strikes, it is important to work together with your spouse before and after the storm to keep life as “normal” as possible, especially if children are involved. You will need to look over your custody agreement and, if not already addressed, determine who will keep the children during the storm and how lost time for the other parent will be recouped. Agreeing on a schedule for the children before the hurricane can help create a better co-parenting relationship and help to keep your children calm if they are worried about the impending storm.
After the storm, it’s just as important for you to be on the same page as your ex-spouse when it comes to your children. I.e., what to do about timesharing if only one parent has electricity, who will watch the children if school is closed, what to do if one parent’s house is damaged, etc. If there is a child support order in place, barring any formal modifications, you are still obligated to pay your usual amount even if you miss work due to the storm. If you live in a city that has been declared a disaster area, you may qualify for FEMA Unemployment Assistance which can lessen the financial burden of missing work due to the storm. FEMA will not directly pay child support or alimony.
Additionally, if you’re going through a divorce when a hurricane strikes, it is important to keep a detailed list of all property damages. Keep written files as well as photos and videos to document storm related issues around your house. If you experience structural damage to your home, be in touch with your insurance company and have a property adjuster come out as soon as possible. If your house was appraised for the divorce settlement pre-storm, you may have it re-appraised after the hurricane to determine its fair value.