New Year, New Beginnings? In January, this is often the mantra used to motivate people to improve their lives in some way…new career, a new health regime or a chance to try something new. Unfortunately for some, the changes made as we enter a new year are not always positive and certainly not easy. Reflecting on the previous year and taking stock can often lead to a surge of couples deciding to separate. This has led to the first Monday in January now becoming known as ‘Divorce Day’. But what may lead to this sudden increase?
- Christmas often means time off from work and the usual routine. This may have led to spending extended periods of time with each other and extended families. Throw in more social occasions, more alcohol, and many couples can reach breaking point.
- The financial burden and stress of making sure the children have a great Christmas is a worry for many parents leading to arguments and falling out. The current cost of living crisis is another factor adding to the pressure.
- Or was it just a waiting game? Parents who have been unhappy in their relationship often wait until after Christmas to avoid upsetting the family when it’s supposed to a magical time!
What can parents do?
Keep the children in mind – Going through a divorce or separation is a difficult time with emotions running high. Being able to talk through the practical arrangements without the children being present is crucial. If this is not possible, consider using mediation to help you think about the arrangement together and come up with a plan.
Avoid Conflict – Minimise the conflict in front of the children. Children are often deeply affected by arguments even if you think you are being discreet. Once separated, you may need to think out how to manage hand-overs. For many co-parents, this is one of the few times they see their ex-partners and its whilst it may be very tempting to bring up old arguments or grievances, it usually does more harm than good.
Living arrangements – Start to think about the practicalities of where the children will live. Will this be shared care between both parents? How will you share childcare arrangements? You may start to create a Parenting Plan which would detail everything you both have agreed.
Financial arrangements – Consider how your joint finances may be split. This can be property, savings, pensions or even debt. Can you agree on how much child maintenance should be paid? Mediation can also help with financial arrangements after separation.
Be Flexible – Plans may have to adapt as circumstances change, emergencies pop up, or as the children get older. Maintaining good communication with your ex-partner will help keep the arrangements on track.
Self-care – Try to take time for yourself. This could be when the children are with their other parent. Seek support from your family and friends and focus on any positives in your life. Set new goals to help you move on. January can be a difficult time of year for many people, so make sure you look after yourself.
When to seek specialist support
With all the best intentions in the world, sometimes it really is impossible to have those practical conversations with your ex partner. You may need the help of a professional mediator. A mediator will help facilitate those difficult conversation to enable you to reach a solution that works best for you all. And it could be free*.
Contact Tees Valley Mediation for a quick chat to see if mediation would work for you. You can email at email@example.com or phone 01429 891444
*Legal Aid may available for those on a low wage or passported benefit such as Universal Credit, Income support and in some cases ESA
For those not eligible the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will provide £500 towards child arrangements mediation session. You will only need to pay for your initial Mediation Intake and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).