At this time of year our attention is focused on family – gathering together to celebrate, to spend time with loved ones and cherish those moments of peace, serenity and comfort. Unfortunately not all will be able to enjoy the festive period, due to the breakdown of a relationship with their partner or husband or wife.
If you are considering or going through separation, divorce or dissolution then this Christmas may be a particularly hard time of year, when all around you others are seemingly happy enjoying the celebrations. All media advertising portrays the rest of the world joyfully eating, drinking and being merry. At every turn one is reminded of what might have been.
A positive way through this might be to focus on the New Year – traditionally a time for ‘Resolutions’ to improve one’s life over the coming year – and to begin to make plans for an alternative future. My experience over the last 15 years, acting on behalf of clients who are separating or divorcing, has told me that it is so important to consider yourself when you are going through this process and that amidst the stress and anxiety, this is very often forgotten.
If you are considering separation or divorce here are some ideas for a New Year’s Resolution:
• Consider speaking to a relationship Counsellor, either alone or with your partner, which will help you decide whether the relationship is capable of surviving (See Relate).
• Consider seeking the help of a Family Therapist, who may assist in resolving wider family issues and therefore reduce the pressure on your relationship with your partner or spouse.
• Think about changes you can make to improve your own lifestyle, independent of your partner or spouse, so that you are empowered to move forward in the event of a relationship breakdown.
• If finances allow, consider a holiday either alone or with friends to take a fresh perspective on your relationship, or with your partner to spend some quality time together.
• Ensure you are looking after your health and wellbeing so that you can face any relationship challenges with a strong spirit in the coming year.
If you are sure your relationship has no future, and you are going through separation or divorce:
• Ensure you have sought appropriate legal advice on your position. Do not allow things to drift, as you may not be protecting your position financially or personally. Arrange a meeting with a family solicitor who is a member of Resolution to ensure they are focused on the least damaging outcome for your and your family. Be wary of taking advice from ‘friends who have divorced’ as every family circumstance is different. Generalisations can be most unhelpful and sometimes damaging.
• Consider the different methods of resolving any disputes between you and your partner or spouse. Mediation (See Family Mediation Council) and Collaborative practice (See Collaborativefamilylawyers.co.uk, harbourfamily law.co.uk) are ways in which you can resolve an agreement without attending court.
• Ensure you are using all of the support you have available. Not only organisations such as Resolution, The Parent Connection, Advice now and Sorting out Separation, but also your own friends and family. Do not carry the stress and unhappiness alone. Those who love you want to help. Let them.
• Begin to make plans for the future. Try saying ‘Yes’ to all (reasonable!) offers for a period of time to open up new opportunities. A new life is ahead of you which may involve relocating, changing your job, making new connections. Although the process of divorce means uncertainty, there are plans you can make in the midst of this uncertainty, which can make things more bearable for you now. (See Rightmove, Learningdirect, Guardian Careers, Match).
• Don’t be hard on yourself. Congratulate yourself on having got this far. Agree with yourself that this time next year you will have taken the right choices to have moved your life forward in a positive way.
Wishing you a peaceful and hopeful Christmas and New Year.
Katy Zikking is a specialist family solicitor at Harbour Family Law Solicitors. You can contact her by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0117 375 1780.
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