Friends of mine are always fascinated to discuss with me whether there are busy times of the year for new family law matters. The answer is yes — and we are about to hit that peak season: the New Year.
This New Year will see me hitting a milestone. I will clock over 20 years working as a family lawyer in early January. In each of those years I have found it fascinating to experience a flurry of people wanting to see a family lawyer at the beginning of the year.
Most will be fairly recently separated or considering separation. Some will have been separated for some time but are only now seeing a family lawyer.
I think some of it is about New Years Resolutions. Or putting things off until after Christmas. "I'll get it sorted in the New Year." New Year, new beginning.
However, some of the people we meet in the New Year are very freshly separated — I’ve had many over the years when the separation occurred on the 31st December or 1st January.
Sadly, a few of those have been the product of too much alcohol leading to words and actions that cause damage to the relationship that can’t be repaired. Others seem more to do with the fact a relationship in trouble bubbles to the surface within the pressure cooker we call the festive season.
I've met new clients in January when clearly the impetus for the relationship ending at that time has been the desire to never, ever, spend another Christmas with the spouse and/or their extended family!
So, what’s the lesson in all this.
The common thread I see with clients who separate in December/January is that it is separation in a rush. If a rushed separation can be avoided (and sometimes it can’t) then your family law settlement is invariably smoother. The smoothest settlements occur when the parties have jointly come to a genuine agreement that they will go their separate ways.
The other lesson — if you think that things are not going smoothly — get advice on what might be the likely outcome if you were to go your separate ways. It will mean you are taking the next step with your eyes wide open. Or it may inspire you to try and work the relationship out.