I hotly dispute the ‘divorce season’ myth, that family lawyers see an increasing number of divorce enquiries in January which are sparked by the strains of the festive period. In our experience, this month is quieter than usual and we receive more approaches in the spring and autumn.
For those of you who are experiencing the trauma and distress of a divorce – or a potential split – this depressing time of year can make the impact harder to handle. The ‘Christmas hangover’ can send focus and wellbeing plummeting at a time when it is vital to stay on the ball.
Here are six steps to surviving the ‘divorce season’.
- Seek legal advice on your rights before leaving the marital or shared home. Those who are married or in a civil partnership can’t make their partner leave the family home without a court order, regardless of whether both or either of you own/rent the property. Cohabitees have less legal protection and can be forced to leave the shared home if their partner rents or owns it solely. If not legally obliged to do so, it is often best to stay until matters are resolved, to avoid being accused of abandoning the family and to reach agreement first.
- Take proper financial advice before discussing options with your partner – a route that appears attractive could have many pitfalls so avoid rushing to make an agreement. Solutions that separating couples think are impossible often turn out to be achievable, and it is important to talk to an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) immediately, rather than after the divorce. An advisor will explain your options and make sense of any offers your partner makes.
- Explore all possible repercussions and outcomes for you and your family and take the advice of as many family professionals – and trusted confidantes – as possible before calling time on your relationship. This includes couples counselling where a trained, independent counsellor can help you to talk through the issues and communicate more constructively. They can also help you to examine external factors that might affect your relationship, such as how arguments can escalate, as well as negotiate and resolve conflicts. While not a universal panacea, this process has saved many a marriage and long-term relationship.
- If divorce or separation is the only way forward, always put children and their feelings first. As the adults of the family, parents should behave like grown-ups, so keep full blown rows to a minimum, don’t criticise your former partner in front of the children and don’t ask them to take sides. Discuss the situation with them, reassure them that the divorce is not their fault – and outline any domestic upheaval so they have as long as possible to get used to the idea. If handled sensitively, you will find that children can survive divorce better than you do.
- During the divorce process, always make every effort to be courteous and polite with your former partner. While you may not always feel like it, the more civilised you can keep discussions and negotiations, the more focused and productive they will be – saving time, money and emotional expenditure.
- Finally, avoid contacting or texting the new partner of your former spouse/partner or replying to their texts. They should not play a greater part than necessary and your main focus should be to sort out the best outcome for you and your children and move forward.
In summary, before rushing into anything, ensure you have explored every option and take professional advice – both legal and financial. If divorce is inevitable, be civil to – and communicate effectively with – your ex-spouse.
Above all, spare your children from undue angst and stress.
About Vanessa Fox
hlw Keeble Hawson partner, Vanessa Fox, marked 25 years as head of the firm’s family law department in 2016.
Collaboratively trained and a qualified mediator, she has modernised South Yorkshire Resolution since becoming chair in 2013 and is also a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and the Children Panel.
She can be contacted at on 0114 290 6232 or on firstname.lastname@example.org.