Nothing exposes the flaws of a family’s foundation quite like the holiday season. Combine extended periods of time spent in close proximity with a few tussles over who’s in charge in the kitchen, mix in arguments over who didn’t pay enough for the joint gift, and season with some inappropriate fire-starting comments made by that one family member, and you have yourself a chaotic and unfortunately unpleasant Christmas.
You’re not alone. In fact, many couples choose the beginning of the year to separate or file for divorce after they’ve had one tough holiday season too many. So what to do if you’ve decided that your most recent Christmas will be the last before your divorce?
Have the separation chat and follow up with action
Even if you’ve already expressed serious concerns over your relationship, or told your partner what feels like a million times that you want out of the marriage, it’s essential that you make it clear to your spouse that this time, you want the marriage to end. Next, most importantly, you need to act on that intention. That means living separately if finances will allow, or living separately under the same roof. It may also mean telling your family and friends.
Remember, for a Court to grant a divorce, you will need to show that you and your partner have had 12 months of separation, where the marriage has broken down and is at its end. If you’ve made the decision that divorce is the best option unilaterally and haven’t told your partner, now is the time.
Putting your kids first
A divorce in any family will necessarily mean that things will never be the same and sometimes it feels as though the children of a relationship seem to suffer the most. But they don’t have to. If you have kids, you can take some simple steps to ensure they aren’t bearing the brunt of your relationship breakdown.
- Parenting agreements. While it isn’t necessary to have a formalised agreement in order to file for divorce, the court will want to know what the care and child support arrangements are for any children under 18 in your shared care.
- Holiday parenting schedule. Usually a time eagerly anticipated by most children, for kids whose parents are divorced, it can be dreaded. Alleviate some of the emotional stress from your children and plan everything to a tee, including where they will stay, for how many days and the details for the handovers. By ironing out these specifics early, you’ll avoid the frustrations and bickering that usually arise out of hastily thought-out arrangements made at the last minute.
- Encourage a healthy relationship for your child with their other parent. Provided that their other parent is not posing any threat to your children, it’s a good idea to put your grievances or any personal feelings aside when you pick up the phone and dial your children’s other parent every once in a while. You are the best role model for your child.
- Family traditions. Everything in your children’s lives is about to be turned upside down so it’s important to try your best to keep some constancy. Family traditions are a good source of happy memories and although those traditions may not be the exact same post-separation, they can be modified and take on a new special meaning in both your life and your children’s.
- Communication is key. Depending on the age of your children, it’s a wise idea to keep your child relatively informed of your divorce process; particularly the aspects which affect them most, for example, the change of living situations.
Thinking about property settlement
While it may seem premature to be talking about who gets the house in the early stages of a separation, it is important to remember that once a divorce application is brought to Court, the clock starts and time will run out quicker than you realise. After the Court finalises a divorce order, you and your ex-partner have just 12 months to settle any property disputes so it’s best that you come to an agreement as soon as possible, and pre-divorce if possible.
Remember that this decision is to improve your life and not make it worse. Don’t be so hard on yourself if things are more difficult than anticipated or if certain negotiations are taking longer than you thought. Try to surround yourself with the people that make you the happiest and focus on rebuilding your new life.
To avoid the holiday-time family crisis this year, speak to one of our dedicated family lawyers today and find out what your options are.