Many couples consider splitting up during the month of January and talking to a lawyer can help people wade through this stressful and confusing period in their life, says Pickering family lawyer Angela Princewill.
There are several reasons why January is the busiest month for family lawyers, says Princewill, principal of AP Lawyers.
The holidays can add stress to an already troubled relationship, she tells AvocateDaily.com. Some couples may have already decided to break up, but want to avoid telling people at a time when everything is supposed to be merry.
“It’s also a new year and some will view this as a time to move on with their lives by separating or signing divorce papers,” she says.
Princewill says she traditionally has more bookings for consultations in January than any other month and her role is to help clients sort through the issues.
“Separation is not easy. It can be overwhelming and emotionally draining for those involved. When they talk to lawyers, they realize all that is involved, especially if there are children,” she says.
“Some of these couples will take no action and others will follow through on plans to start divorce proceedings.”
Princewill says money is sometimes a factor in whether couples will divorce.
“When you come for a consultation, you need to hear the truth. Your lifestyle is not going to be the same. We need to explain finances to them. For example, your pension will be lower and the matrimonial home may need to be sold. We do support calculations with them,” she says.
Others may be past the point of trying to work things out, Princewill says.
“For some, they just can’t stay in the relationship any longer. The holiday was the breaking point. They want to get started on the process right away.”
Princewill says many of her clients ask for her opinion on whether they should divorce, but that is not her role.
“I let them know I am not in their shoes. It doesn’t matter what I think. I cannot make that call.”
She will suggest counselling if partners are struggling with indecision. “If that’s an option, a couple may want to give that a try. We’ve had clients who have reconciled after putting a separation agreement in place,” she says.
However, if there is abuse in the relationship, Princewill says she advises the abused party to find a safe place to stay right away and seek help from support services.
She says clients may need to proceed quickly if it’s believed one partner is hiding assets. “I tell them, ‘Let’s get a separation agreement. Let’s get assets equalized.’”
Creating a separation agreement as amicably as possible is the goal, Princewill says. “It’s less emotionally draining if parties can be cordial. You don’t need the drama and you want to reach a settlement.”
She says it’s also less expensive. “The less you fight about it, the better.”
But cordiality isn’t always possible and there are cases where divorcing couples cannot agree on anything, Princewill says.
“Mediation would be the next step and for some, only litigation will resolve outstanding issues.”
The last piece of advice Princewill has for her clients who are divorcing is not to second-guess themselves.
“Some say, ‘I should have left five years ago.’ Well, you’re here now and if you wait another five years, it may only get worse.’”