The Christmas trees have been taken down, the cards sent to the recycling centre and as children start returning to school the sad reality of a New Year is that it often brings with it a resolution to end an unhappy relationship or marriage.
The first working day of January has been dubbed by many newspapers as ‘divorce day’ and if we believe what we read then my fellow family law colleagues and I will be ‘bracing ourselves’ for the influx of calls today from people wanting to start the divorce process or to receive advice.
In my experience this doesn’t happen immediately and certainly not all on one day. Quite often a couple may separate in the New Year or resolve to separate but the journalists may be surprised to hear that the family lawyer tends not to be the first person that they pick up the phone to! Particularly where the separation has been instigated by only one spouse then it can take time for the other to emotionally and psychologically arrive at a place where they feel ready to seek advice.
They may turn to family and/or friends first, they may remain in a state of denial or remain hopeful that they can persuade their partner to reconcile. It can take weeks or months before a New Year break up finds its way to our doors.
Those clients that I do see early in January tend to have been in a relationship that broke down several months previously and who, for a whole number of reasons, decided to wait until the start of the New Year before taking any further steps.
For anyone who finds themselves in this position whether having separated recently or having decided to formalise a separation that has been in existence for some time it can be a difficult and stressful time. Here are some things that you might want to consider:
Friends and family
Friends and family may be quick to offer support and well-intended advice but all too often the advice can cause you further confusion and inflame emotions which will already be running high.
The prospect of incurring legal fees when your future financial security is uncertain may be worrying but proper legal advice at an early stage could end up saving you thousands in legal fees and months of unnecessary stress. Finding out about your rights, obligations and the options available to you will provide you with the knowledge you need to decide what steps to take next. For information on our fixed fee packages please see https://www.btofamilylaw.co.uk/our-costs/family-law-fixed-fee-package/
Don’t be too hasty to agree things
If you didn’t instigate the separation you may feel overwhelmed with what lies ahead and more vulnerable to being persuaded to agree financial matters before you have taken proper legal advice. Quite often the ‘agreement’ is not fair and the spouse or partner who is the emotionally stronger can manipulate the situation to their own advantage.
Try to remain amicable
Threatening a court action will not help either of you. There are a number of ways that we can help you to reach an agreement with your spouse or partner in a civilised and amicable way. For more information on mediation or the collaborative process please see https://www.btofamilylaw.co.uk/your-options/mediation/ and https://www.btofamilylaw.co.uk/separation-and-divorce/collaborative-divorce/
Be aware of any time limits
If you were cohabitees and not spouses then be aware that you only have 12 months from the date of your separation within which to bring a financial claim. Raising a court action should always be the last resort but if you delay in obtaining legal advice then the time that you have to try to achieve an amicable settlement is reduced accordingly.
Shield your children from your dispute
If you have children try to keep them out of your own disagreements. Don’t speak about their other parent in a way that disparages them either directly to your children or to others and within their earshot. This can be hard to do if you feel that their other parent is behaving unreasonably or irresponsibly but shielding your children from your own dispute will help to minimise the impact of your separation on them.
Social media now makes it so easy for us to comment about things or other people. Don’t be tempted to make any disparaging remarks about your spouse or partner in any form or to post photographs of them. You may find yourself on the wrong side of a defamation action and even if it doesn’t go this far making such comments and/or posting unwanted photographs will only antagonise your spouse/partner and not help you achieve an amicable resolution.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Separation is painful and confusing, add to that trying to remain amicable, shielding your children from your dispute and returning to work; it is difficult to keep all those plates spinning at the same time and can often seem too much to deal with. A good family solicitor should help by demystifying the process, explaining your options and empowering you with knowledge. For some people though more is needed and many clients find that speaking to a counsellor can help them deal with the emotional side of separation which in turn enables them to remain amicable and reach a resolution with dignity.