As well as being a time for celebration, Christmas often offers a period of reflection – on relationships as much as anything.

For some, family tensions can come to a head at this time of the year, for a number of reasons.

One is that couples tend to be in close proximity throughout the Christmas period. It’s less easy at this time to live more-or-less separate lives, and there’s the absence of distractions such as work or school. The presence of in-laws or other family members can also prove difficult for many.

Another is the financial strain, with December being an expensive month, what with the cost of presents, food, drink and entertaining.

Many of us also over-indulge at Christmas – and excess alcohol is frequently a factor in marital strife.

Some people, particularly those with children, will wait until after the celebrations are over to avoid spoiling Christmas itself. But they will be looking to make a change as soon as possible afterwards. After all, the turn of the year is traditionally a time for resolutions and for fresh starts.

For all these reasons, it’s therefore not surprising that divorce rates soar at the beginning of the new year.

Divorce and Separation – Your Options

The main reason cited for divorce is ‘unreasonable behaviour’. This generally refers to a spouse’s actions over a prolonged period. Other legally-recognised grounds for divorce are adultery, five years’ separation (or two years’ separation if agreed by both parties), or two years’ desertion. (Desertion can be difficult to prove – it might be easier to use unreasonable behaviour or say you’ve lived apart for 2 years). In addition couples must have been married for at least a year before they can divorce.

However, divorce is not the only option. Many people opt for a trial separation to begin with. A separation can be recognised in law as well. You can also avoid legal proceedings completely, at least to begin with, and opt for a separation agreement, which we can help you draft. Please note that while a separation agreement can be legally persuasive, it’s not binding upon the court until it has been formalised into a consent order.

If you’re cohabiting rather than married, you have certain rights if you split up, although not as many as if you were wed. If you’re in a civil partnership, then you will benefit from broadly similar rights to being married.

If you have children, then our child family law professionals can assist in legal advice and arrangements concerning their welfare.

Whatever your status and whatever you’re considering, we can advise you on your options. We can advise you on the personal and financial side, as well as possible agreements you might want to make.  More information is on our Divorce and Separation page

Getting an injunction against a family member

The holiday period can also be the setting for a further dark shadow – domestic abuse. Those who are already separated or divorced will often feel particular stress at being away from their children or former partner. Even if you are still together, factors such as enforced close proximity, alcohol or financial issues can lead to abusive incidents.

Our family law team can help you obtain a suitable injunction – either an Occupation Order or a Non-Molestation Order. These are available to both married and unmarried individuals. For details, please see our Family Court Injunctions page

A Free Consultation

Bison Solicitors offers a free half-hour consultation with a specialist family lawyer if you are considering a separation or divorce. We’re based in Aldershot, Hampshire, with several offices elsewhere in the UK.

We appreciate that every person and every relationship is different, so our first task will be simply to listen.

Then we can help you consider your next steps at a difficult time. Even if your new year isn’t particularly happy right now, we can help you find peace and happiness in the months and years to come.

If you need a fresh start then book your free consultation, please email [email protected] or call 01252 268 168.