So you survived the festive season then, I see? So I would like to formally welcome you to 2013 and wish you a prosperous and happy new year. Both those words are key to my first new year message – happy and prosperous, that is. Everyone has the right to be happy and be in a fulfilling relationship. The irony is that as we look forward to an exciting new year, full of happiness, it is one of the busiest times for family lawyers as more couple seek legal advice about divorce in the weeks after new year.
There are some (many?) couples out there for whom Christmas and all the stresses that unfortunately come with it, is the final straw. Once the party has finished and the hangover worn off, thoughts are focused on a new start for the new year and that itself starts with an appointment with a family solicitor. The thing is, a new start could so easily be a new approach to a relationship, making a renewed effort to make it work or being honest and seeking help in your relationship if it is needed. Resorting to a legal resolution in early January is not the only way of seeking a new start.
Counselling could help many couples in this situation and give them a real chance of saving their marriage rather than throwing in the towel. I have often said that family lawyers are more than just legal advisors and this is an area where we can demonstrate that – by pointing couples in crisis at people who might be able to help them.
Of course, it would be unrealistic and overly idealistic to think that all relationships can be “fixed” in this way. Relationships falter for many reasons and often the best solution for all concerned is for the couple to go their separate ways. In these situations, family lawyers can help guide through the legal process of ending a marriage and in settling arrangements for the road ahead. And whereas, in some instances, we may be able to give encouragement to struggling couples and suggest counselling may help, conversely we may be able to help others recognise that things are over. It is not our job to interfere or pretend to know the nature of the couple, but we can read signs and, again, point people to the right counsel.
There is a whole array of help out there for people struggling with their relationship – I’d highly recommend a look at the Relate website as a starting point. But if divorce is inevitable then take advice from an experienced family lawyer, rather than your friends and family. Arming yourself with the facts about separation and divorce will mean you’ll make better decisions and may end up happier and more prosperous.