For many people, the holidays are a time to get together with extended family, share traditions, or perhaps even take a long-awaited vacation. At a time when most things in our lives are supposed to be happier and more joyful, some couples are facing the realization that divorce may be imminent. Instead of feeling hopeful for the new year approaching, and the possibilities for changes and improvements that a new year can bring, some couples are feeling completely disillusioned and fearful.
January typically brings an influx of individuals seeking to end their marriages. Some law firms see twice as many inquiries the first few days of the new year, and that trend typically continues throughout the month of January. In fact, many firms report a 25 percent increase in divorce proceedings in the month of January.
People tend to think of the holidays with increased expectations, and may be feeling hopeful that something different will happen, positive changes will be made, and new beginnings are right around the corner. There’s a general sense of optimism in the air, but not for everyone. If people are taking the time to reflect on their lives and aren’t happy with the current situation, it can be the motivation to change course and seek divorce.
Add in the pressures and stress that often accompany planning around the holidays, and trying to maintain the status quo, especially if children are involved, and couples who have pre-existing cracks in their relationship, find their struggles becoming even more real. Factor in holidays that may not live up to expectations, and these couples realize they may need to jumpstart the process of divorce if the world around them seems to be falling apart. And, if Christmas wasn’t as merry as you would have liked, some couples continue to re-examine their relationship on New Year’s, deciding if they want to start the year fresh. The new year may not always include their significant other.
Emotions aside, some couples also pursue divorce right after the holidays for financial reasons. Many pre-and post-nuptial agreements have trigger dates of three, five or 10 years, so couples file after the end of the year. Additionally, some consider their taxes and how they will file as it relates to divorce. Others decide to divorce after the New Year so that higher/lower earnings from the previous year can to utilized to set child support and/or spousal maintenance payments.
If you find yourself in this situation, and are deciding to divorce, it’s important to remember a few key points:
• Because not everyone is an attorney, with an extensive knowledge of divorce law, it’s still important to do your research about divorce laws in your state. You may find yourself in need of an expert in divorce matters from a legal perspective at some point, but you can supplement this with your own knowledge.
• It’s important to begin gathering important personal and financial documents – eventually you will need this documentation as you go through the legal process and you want to safeguard it in the event things take an unsavory turn.
• Try to be rational and patient. This may seem like an insurmountable task, but it’s important to act as sanely and maturely as possible.
• Take ownership of your role, because it’s helpful to realize how the two people involved contributed to the breakdown.
• Protect your children from being caught in the middle of this process and put their needs before yours.
• Be very careful not to undermine or criticize your spouse, especially around your children. Having negative thoughts is not unusual during this process, but keep them in check.
Despite a couple’s best efforts, divorce may be inevitable. By starting the process in a rational and calm manner, couples are much better equipped to make lasting agreements with one another, address their differences effectively and develop parenting plans that will be beneficial for everyone involved.
Maniatis & Dimopoulos P.C., located in Tuckahoe, N.Y, is best known for its expertise in matrimonial and family law – helping high-net worth clients settle through often-complicated divorce cases. Owner Gus Dimopoulos’ experience and readiness to go to trial has earned him a reputation of a no-nonsense litigator who is a strong advocate for his clients.