2017… new year, new start?

3 January 2017. The first working day of the new year. Supposedly, one of the “highlights” of every family lawyer’s calendar, when we allegedly see a year-on-year unprecedented increase in new enquiries about divorce and separation.

Every year, we will read in the press of one or two law firms anticipating a huge rise in the number of enquiries from would-be divorcees on D-Day (I seem to recall a very specific predicted increase of 332% by one firm last year).  Undoubtedly, I will see a few new enquiries before the week is out, but I certainly don’t expect the levels to be significantly higher than other times of the year. In fact, more often, new enquiries will typically come at the end of the month, once the dust has settled on Christmas and people have had time to reflect on their feelings and look at things in the balance.

The start of a new year is typically a chance to “start afresh” and we are all guilty of making well-intended resolutions to make some dramatic changes to our lives. But how many of us can say, a month in to the year, that we have stuck with our resolutions? And should now really be the time for you to decide to make a change as dramatic as ending a relationship?

The holidays can be a true test for some relationships. Time cooped up indoors, extended visits to family, mixed with the excesses of the festive season, can prove to be a disastrous combination for some.  From mid-October we are bombarded with images of the perfect Christmas everywhere we look (I for one live in a perpetual state of panic for the next 10 weeks worrying about how much I haven’t done to prepare). From the perfectly laid Christmas table, to dreamy snowy countryside scenes, to the latest way to prepare your turkey, for almost 3 months of the year we are sold an idealised picture of the Christmas we should strive to achieve.  Family tensions, limited financial budgets, illness, stressful jobs, juggling commitments (ie the realities of life) don’t get a look in, and we are expected to somehow magically solve everything life has thrown at us over the past 12 months, to ensure a perfect week of festivities.  It’s no wonder tensions rise to the surface and bubble over.   For some, things will simmer and cool, and life will move on very much the same as before.  But for some, they reach boiling point and there really is no return.

So, what should you do if Christmas has left you feeling like something needs to change?

Take time to think about your feelings. Take stock of the last few weeks, and look at them in the context of your life as a whole.  It could just be a case of too much all at once – family tensions and the pressure of Christmas may seem insurmountable, but take these away and assess your true feelings towards your partner.  Are the festive tensions capable of being overcome? Could a frank and honest conversation with your partner help you to put feelings of discontent to one side? If not, think carefully about whether the problems you have encountered are truly insurmountable.

If ultimately you have reached the conclusion that sadly you simply cannot carry on with the status quo, then it’s time to think about what happens next.  You may have confided in a friend or spoken to someone who has been in a similar situation in the past.  Whilst it will undoubtedly help to get things off your chest and get some perspective, it is also important to speak to a lawyer. I cannot emphasise this enough, whether you are married or not, and I’m not saying this just because I am a lawyer.  Even for unmarried couples living together, it may not simply be a case of packing a bag and walking away – you may have financial ties to one another and children to think about.  Whatever your situation, it’s important to know what your rights and obligations are in the eyes of the law. Remember, knowledge is power.  A conversation with a lawyer can help you better understand what should happen next, and empower you to take the steps you need to take to move on with your life.

Think you need to talk about making a change? Contact me!



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