Summer is often a wonderful time to celebrate new beginnings with weddings and engagement announcements. However, it is also a divorce lawyer's busiest time of the year. The end of year break is not often the reason couples separate, but it can be the final nail in the coffin. There are a few common themes I see from people separating during this time.
New year resolutions
As the new year ticks over, some people are looking for a fresh start. They may have been unhappy in their relationship for a while. The new year is often used as an opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed and think about what you want to change going forward. For some people, that change is their partner.
Waiting until after Christmas
As the year comes to an end, some people approach a divorce lawyer to seek some advice before they separate. They may have decided that they want to leave their partner but if kids are involved, they will often wait until after Christmas. They may want to cherish one last Christmas together as a family before the parents go their separate ways.
The pressure of the holiday season
Christmas is supposed to be a time to relax. Unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury. Financial worries, travel and spending time with each other's family can be a pressure cooker for some relationships. Couples may experience more arguing during this time.
It is often the only time of the year that couples get to spend extended time with each other. For many that's a great pleasure. For others, they realise they don't like their partner much after all.
The aftermath of the silly season
The end of the year is often used as a chance to blow off some steam. With packed social calendars, there are plenty of excuses to get in the sunshine and have a few drinks with friends or colleagues. However, alcohol can be an accelerant for a rocky relationship as a few drinks shows off an ugly side of someone or sparks a brutally honest conversation.
How has Covid-19 changed things?
This year, the holidays look different. For some couples, they may be used to travelling overseas for the summer holidays to visit family. With travel being severely restricted, some people will be separated from their family for the foreseeable future. If they have elderly parents or other family members, they may choose to relocate home – with or without their partner.
Tips for navigating new year separation
If you find yourself ready to call it quits with your partner after the holidays, consider if it is what you really want or a consequence of the season. If you are feeling that way because of a sudden increase in conflict, remember that it is normal for couples to argue at this time of the year. Covid-19 has made this year especially tough for many. You may both just be exhausted and especially cranky. Try taking some time to rest (maybe separately) and consider seeking help from a counsellor before making a final decision.
If you're sure you are ready to separate, keep in mind that divorce can be a lengthy process. This is especially true if there are children or significant assets involved. It often takes at least three to 12 months to get all the separation and relationship property matters out of the way. If you were married, you must wait two years after separating before you can dissolve your marriage and legally marry someone else.
When people separate, it is rarely just them who is affected. If you have children you should consider how it will affect them. Consider how you will break the news to them. It is usually best that they hear it from you, rather than someone else. Children will react differently depending on their age. Try not to stress if they are not reacting how you would expect. Children can be very perceptive to how well their parents are getting along so if they are older they may have seen it coming.
There is never a "right time" to separate from your partner. If you are one of the many people who separate during the holidays, remember to be kind to yourself and ensure you have a network to lean on for support. Do your best to keep communicating with your partner as you settle the details of your separation, especially when children are involved.
- Jeremy Sutton is a senior family lawyer, specialising in divorce cases where there are significant assets, including family trusts and complex business structures.