Whilst there is an abundance of wildly inaccurate urban myths that circulate in relation to family law, its unwavering seasonal nature is a subject that is surprisingly not discussed as widely as it should. The festive season brings with it Christmas and New Year’s, the end of the school year, extended holidays and the opportunity to reflect on the year that was—and a whole lot of stress. For fear of sounding trite, these factors often lead to the ‘perfect storm’ in the world of family law. In my experience there are many factors that play a pivotal role in influencing people’s decision to separate at this time of year.
The school year ends
Many people contemplating separation, (particularly those wanting to relocate children to other regions) wait until the end of the school year to minimise the disruption this will cause to their children. This not only causes a bottle neck in the court system, but parenting matters often take many months to resolve; sometimes even years. It is best to obtain advice as early as possible rather than leaving everything to this time of the year.
Christmas is all about the kids. For this reason, many people decided to subjugate their own emotional well-being until after the festive season. The thought process being that people want to wait until after Christmas before separating to ensure the kids have a joyous time; free from the emotional upheaval that separation brings. Many parents also fight vigorously to ensure they have the kids on Christmas Day. Who cares about the other 364 days of the year, right?
The New Year’s resolution
Many people continue to live in intolerable relationships for long periods of time before finally taking the step to separate. Separation is an enormously difficult and confusing time for families and it can often take a poignant moment in time, like New Year’s Eve, before people finally resolve to do something about it. Clients have often said to me over the years that their New Year’s resolution was to be happy and to have a fresh beginning.
The silly season
Alcohol fuelled, end of year celebrations often brings with it a high degree of risk where relationships are concerned. Not only do people tend to make poor decisions under the strain of such circumstances, but rifts often open in relationships. Whilst these differences may have always existed, the ‘silly season’ presents as a more concentrated opportunity to highlight these differences.
For many families, the Christmas and New Year period is a financially stressful time. The cost of Christmas presents, celebrations, holidays, reduced work hours or work stoppages, back to school costs all seem to come at once. Financial pressure is undoubtedly one of the leading causes of tension within relationships and separation itself. This is as exacerbated this time of the year.
End of hibernation and the beach body
As winter comes to an end, tracksuits and lazy days on the couch with too much chocolate are replaced with a renewed vitality, active wear and promises of new health regimes. People are more motivated, have greater self-esteem and have a renewed sense of preparedness for change and new challenges in the summer months.
Cabin fever and the extended family
There is no doubt that spending longer periods of time with extended family is often a motivator for separation; particularly during wet summers when the whole tribe is couped up for days on end! Family gatherings can provide people with much needed support, comfort and guidance when making important decisions such as separation. There is, equally no doubt, that family gatherings tend to bring simmering family issues to the boil.
There are no magical answers to the resolution of family law matters. What makes the difference is obtaining advice from experienced family lawyers as early as possible rather than waiting until the end of the year.
Although none of these factors in isolation may lead to separation, they tend to overlap at this time of the year. Indeed, the layering of these factors is akin to individual droplets of water, which in themselves are harmless, but collectively can form a tsunami, one of the most destructive and potent forces in nature… Dramatic? Perhaps, but nonetheless it is often several small issues that are harder to resolve than the larger, easily identifiable ones.
Family lawyers are a means of helping and guiding people through a stressful, drawn out period in their lives and provide crucial assistance to resolve these challenges as peacefully and respectfully as possible.