This blog was originally published on Huffington Post Canada.
The beginning of a new year is often a time of reflection and resolutions. The usual suspects are diet and exercise, but often people are ready for much bigger life decisions. For a couple struggling in a marriage, this might seem like the perfect time to end the relationship and move on. In fact, this happens so often that January has become known as Divorce Month.
Most people, if they are unhappy in their marriage, are probably thinking about breaking up long before the holidays. But given that the holidays are a traditional family time, couples, especially those with children, loathe creating a sad memory for their children. Yet once the decorations are put away and everyone is back in their routine, many spouses are ready to start taking steps towards a separation.
This doesn’t mean that couples are walking into divorce courts, ready to go on the first of January. More likely, they are starting to gather information and are beginning the process of separation. Some couples, or individuals, have already brainstormed what they want and are clear about their goals. Others are sad, and anxious and want to understand what is involved in dissolving their marriage.
There are important factors to consider prior to taking the next big step.
Are you sure?
It may feel as though it is too late to save your marriage, but consider visiting a marital counsellor or therapist. Alternatively, you can go individually and get advice on how to navigate your emotions around your separation and divorce, and how to deal with your children during this process.
How to separate
A separation can be negotiated entirely out-of-court, ideally using either a mediator or collaborative lawyers. Either can help couples come to a fair conclusion in a calmer atmosphere than other alternatives such as going to Court.
In mediation, a mediator is a third party who will help a couple make decisions together about their separation. Not everyone is comfortable with this, as they may not want to have such a direct conversation with their spouse. They may also be concerned that they don’t know enough about the laws around separation, e.g. tax implications. That said, mediators might call in lawyers or other specialists to clarify more complex issues.
In a collaborative lawyer-to-lawyer negotiation, a lawyer for each spouse advocates using a system of negotiation based on mutual interest and open communication.
The end of a marriage is an emotional minefield and sadness and hurt can get mixed up with financial discussions and decisions about children. By keeping the separation process outside the courts, you can maintain a less acrimonious atmosphere and hopefully come to an agreement with less stress.
How to share the news with your children
What you tell your children largely depends on their age and the circumstances of your situation. Generally it is a good idea to present a united message from both parents. Being on the same page will be less confusing for your children and will help maintain some stability in a situation that may feel unstable, especially in the early stages.
Should I start my separation in Divorce Month?
If you are considering breaking up, there is never a good time. The best you can do at any time is to know your objectives, stay calm, and treat your spouse as you hope to be treated.