New Year is also a time for endings

January is divorce season. Picture: PA

January is divorce season. Picture: PA

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Divorce is never easy but being prepared can help, says Phillippa Cunniff

WITHOUT wishing to dash anyone’s hopes for a happy New Year, here’s some sobering news: January tends to be the busiest month for divorce lawyers.

The start of the “divorce season” often sees twice as many couples begin divorce proceedings than any other time of the year.

This New Year spike may be provoked by the strain of spending time with your other half over the festive period or the fact that many spouses wanting to divorce will hang on until after Christmas to avoid upsetting their families during this time.

Others may be hoping their situation or their partner’s behaviour will change, and when nothing shifts, separation seems to be the only answer.

There is no way to approach the subject of divorce at this time of year without feeling it somehow goes against the spirit of the season, but for some couples there’s no getting away from it. If that’s you, it’s time to start thinking about options and next steps. It can feel overwhelming, but it’s important not to feel as though you’ve committed to anything at this stage.

There are a lot of issues that you need to take into account when you are separating. For example the arrangements that are going to be put into place when looking after children, issues of child support, treatment of inherited assets and also how you are actually going to dissolve your marriage when the time comes.

Whatever the trigger for a couple taking this decision, divorce is never easy.

But there are approaches which can make it more straightforward and somewhat less personally taxing, particularly if there are children involved.

The best type of advice to give to anyone in this situation is to seek advice from a solicitor and at the earliest possible opportunity.

People often worry that by going to see a solicitor that they are drawing a final line under their relationship.

However, contacting a lawyer to have this discussion is simply the first step in gathering information that they need to help them in the decision-making process.

To help with this, we have created a series of videos to help couples who are dealing with some of the most commonly asked questions on separation.

This includes information on how to sort our arrangements for care of the children, division of assets and child support.

Part of being a family lawyer is being able to assess which approach will be most appropriate for the circumstances and it always helps to be armed with an understanding of your options so that you can make better-informed decisions.

Taking the first step towards divorce is a major decision, which no-one takes lightly. If, however, it is time to end your marriage, it’s important to understand the key issues which will be involved and make the process as straightforward as it can be.

• Philippa Cunniff is partner and head of family law at law firm HBJ Gateley. For information on some of the most commonly asked questions, a list of videos can be found on the HBJ Gateley YouTube page

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