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Relationship breakdowns - coping at Christmas and planning for the new year

It’s a sad fact that peace and goodwill may not be present in every household this Christmas. The festive period can often bring relationship breakdowns to a head and the ensuing new year period, in which making a fresh start is encouraged, may lead couples to think of separation or divorce as a solution.

However, it is important not to rush into things and make a spur of the moment decision. In our experience many couples begin the mental process of ending the relationship long before the holiday period, with the turn of the calendar year acting as a trigger point to act. Therefore, it’s vital to have a plan in place if you decide to part or a coping mechanism if you opt to stay together, as well as seeking the support of family members and friends.

In the immediate term, reducing the stress as far as possible over Christmas, particularly if there are children involved. If you are already estranged from your partner, try to talk and make a plan (put it in writing if that helps) as leaving arrangements to the last minute can add to anxiety. Trying to work through any differences and avoiding confrontation by putting the children first can only be a good thing.

Looking further ahead, separation or divorce can often be a lengthy and stressful process for both parties. However, there are various professionals available who can provide legal, financial and counselling services to help separating couples through any difficult decisions and there are some practical steps that can be taken to help manage the situation.

Visiting a family mediator or collaborative lawyer from the outset will set out the legal guidelines and give both parties a clear view of the legal process and timetable.

If children are involved, creating a parenting plan agreed by both parents which ideally covers contact arrangements, holidays and keeping each other informed about illness and school-related activities.

Circumstances sometimes mean that couples may still have to live together in the lead up to, during and even after the divorce. Discussing important issues such as finances, living arrangements and ownership of items will help in this situation.

If at all possible, it best to avoid an acrimonious split and costly Court proceedings. Our Family team includes trained mediators and collaborative lawyers who provide confidential, impartial advice in a supportive environment. Our Rutland & Stamford Family Mediation Service may also be able to assist.