Amongst family lawyers, January is commonly known as “divorce month”.
Having kept it together over Christmas, people decide to make a fresh start in the new year. Some people, however, decide that they can’t wait and ask for a divorce over the holidays. If you’re thinking of being one of them, here are some points to consider.
Can you keep it civil?
If you’re not safe, then you need to end the relationship and get yourself to a safe place as quickly as possible. If, however, you are safe, the next question is whether you and your partner can keep it civil over the holidays.
If you can, then you might be better waiting until the “January rush” has passed. This can make it much easier to get hold of the necessary professionals e.g. lawyers. You could still use this time productively. For example, you could get relationship counselling and/or mediation.
If you can’t, then you need to think about whether or not telling your partner you want a divorce will improve the situation. Depending on your relationship, it may clear the air and allow you both to agree on a path forward. On the other hand, it may turn the situation from bad to worse.
Have you explored all other options?
You may want to look at counselling, both individually and as a couple, before you take any final decisions. Individual counselling can help you to clarify if the state of your marriage is actually the cause of your issues or a symptom of them.
Relationship counselling looks at the dynamics between you and your partner. Regardless of whether or not it saves your marriage, it can put you on a stronger footing to deal with each other respectfully going forward. This is vital if you have children and useful if you don’t.
You might also want to look at options such as an informal trial separation and/or legal separation. These can be used instead of or as a precursor to a formal divorce. Legal separations can be complex and are best discussed with legal advice. They can, however, be very useful as a way to ease a long marriage to a gentle end.
Have you already taken care of the practicalities?
So-called “quickie” divorces are only really an option for short marriages, with minimal assets and no children when both parties are in total agreement about what they want. They do certainly happen but they’re the minority of divorce cases.
Most divorces involve at least some legal and financial administration. If the marriage has been long and/or there are significant assets involved, then this can be a very complex process. This is before you get to any child-custody and child-support arrangements.
If you’ve already looked into these, then it may be reasonable to confirm to your partner that you’ve decided you definitely want a divorce. If you haven’t, then there may be very little point in mentioning it over the holidays. It will sour the atmosphere without taking you any closer to your goal.
Kerry Smith is the head of Family Law at K J Smith Solicitors and are experienced in all matters relating to divorce, civil partnerships, cohabitation disputes and collaborative law.