Christmas was unbearable, is now the right time to get a divorce?
If the festive season has confirmed to you that you aren’t happy in your relationship and you want to separate, what are your options?
Christmas can be a hugely difficult and stressful time for families, especially where a relationship is already under strain. In many cases, spending extended time together can cause tensions to boil over. In other cases, often for couples with children, a decision is made to stay together until after Christmas to avoid ruining the holidays for them.
It is for that reason that January as a whole has historically seen a marked increase in divorce petitions being presented to the court, and relationship support organisation Relate also report a significant spike in enquiries and visitors to their website over Christmas and throughout January. This has in turn led to the coining of the phrase ‘Divorce Day’: the first Monday after New Years Day, the day on which family lawyers are said to see the biggest number of new enquiries to start divorce proceedings.
If that sounds familiar, and you are now contemplating separation, or have already separated, what should you do next?
If you are married, you are likely to be able to petition the court for divorce straight away, so long as you are able to prove either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. On the other hand, you may decide to wait if a divorce isn’t a priority for you, and you can look to divorce on long term separation after a minimum of two years. If there are financial matters to sort out, but you are able to agree them with your spouse without needing to apply to the court, there may be less reason to divorce straight away. On the other hand, if you cannot agree on how assets should be shared, and it is necessary to apply to the court, then you would normally need to start divorce proceedings first.
In many cases, there will be a property to sort out whether you are married or not. Depending on our circumstances, there may be other assets or issues to consider, such as pensions, savings, or maintenance payments for the children, or even for one of the spouses in some cases. Some of those things (for example who is to remain in the family home) will need to be resolved quite quickly if not immediately, while others can wait a little longer to sort out. While you are likely to need some degree of support and advice from a solicitor, it may well be possible to agree many or all of those issues between you with limited assistance, but even then may still need to document that agreement. In other cases, it may be beneficial to obtain further details on values of assets and/or advice on what you may be entitled to first, which a family lawyer can help you with. You could try to attend mediation to try to reach an agreement, so long as you are both willing to go. Ultimately, if you are unable to agree, you may be able to apply to the court to determine any financial issues between you, and you are likely to need advice and representation within those proceedings.
If you have children together, arrangements will need to be made as to where they are going to live and what time they will spend with each parent. Those arrangements will depend on your own circumstances and what will work best for the children. While those arrangements can be informal and reasonably flexible, it is often desirable to have a degree of structure to provide certainty and consistency for the children. It may be beneficial to record those arrangements in writing. If you cannot agree on those arrangements, there are a number of options and services available to you, including mediation, or through solicitors letters or meetings. If it is still not possible to come to an agreement, then it may be possible to approach the court for an order detailing the arrangements for the children.
If any of the above circumstances, or other similar issues, and you would like advice on your separation, whether you are married or not, please contact Greg Cross at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors in Malton or Pickering on 01653 600070.