I have decided this year not to follow the media hype about the supposed rush to pick up the phone and ring a family lawyer for a divorce or separation on the first Monday of January each year. I confess in the past I have mindlessly retweeted the usual press speak every year around this time talking about the surge to divorce. This year, I have really thought about the impact of this upon those going through a difficult time in their relationships and it makes me cringe.
The first week of January has passed and I have not experienced a massive surge of new instructions nor, when I come to think about it, have I in the last 15 years of practising as a family lawyer. It’s undoubtedly busy because people are often more resolute about getting things done after the festive break, but the phone wasn’t constantly ringing with new clients seeking a divorce just because it is the start of a new year. I don’t think I am alone since I have a healthy caseload of clients in my legal and mediation caseload. We do see peaks and troughs in our work but it’s not always in January. More often it is in the summer when parents are trying to juggle work with child care commitments and September, sadly after the school summer holidays.
If you feel that now is the time to start a divorce process, take your time to think this through. Start by thinking how best you can communicate what you want as often your spouse or partner may find your decision a complete shock to them. Think about whether you need to see a solicitor and if you do what you want from a solicitor and how you would like that solicitor to best help you. It is important to consider the various ways of resolving a separation or divorce such as mediation, round table meetings, collaborative law, arbitration, solicitor negotiations or a do-it-yourself divorce (I would always recommend seeing a solicitor for advice as to your legal entitlement). You could do some research online and think about how best to achieve your separation or divorce, minimising the trauma to you and your family.
I would hate to think that there are couples out there who have had a difficult time over Christmas who feel under pressure through solicitors heavily advertising the so called rush to divorce in January, that now it’s 2016 they rush into making hasty decisions about their marriage or relationship because of this media hype that everyone else is doing it.
For some, a new year does bring a time of reflection and can mean a decision to end a marriage or relationship, but this decision is rarely taken in haste and my experience suggests that one thinks about this for many months, even years, before a decision is made.
I would encourage anyone thinking about separating to consult with a professional and to start the process only when you are ready. Consider how you would best like to deal with your divorce or separation, what you would hope to avoid and, most importantly if you have children, how you can best support them through the process protecting them from conflict. I know this is easier said than done but there are so many professionals who can help. You could see a counsellor who can help you talk to each other and consider whether your relationship is at an end, or can be worked on. You could instruct a family consultant who helps manage the emotional process.
You could meet with a mediator, an impartial professional who is trained to manage conflict, help you communicate and reach your own agreement when you just can’t manage this between you and who can give you legal information and help you access separately any legal advice you need.
You could consult with a lawyer whose role is to advise you on the law and to work hard to ensure that you do not end up in Court. They can also help you make the best possible decisions and guide you through the process because divorce doesn’t happen in a day like the media would like you to believe: it is a process. This process is not easy but it can be managed in the best possible way.
After all, the media also says that everyone is dieting and heading to the gym at this time of year as well and, I for one, am not.
Clare Madeline Mediation