IT is a time of family goodwill and domestic harmony but the truth is that the Christmas and New Year period can turn into a festive nightmare for some couples and families.
The ever-increasing build-up and costs and the ever-heightened expectation of the ideal day can put excess pressure on relationships and is often the catalyst for change as the last attempt at the perfect Christmas leads to a New Year separation.
Family law expert Janet Simpson, of Sheffield law firm Simpson Sissons & Brooke, has seen the after-effects of the season of goodwill many times throughout her long and experienced career.
She said: “It can be an emotional time and the short path to that moment when people realise they no longer want to be with a partner after spending what can seem like so much time together.
“They recognise that things are just as bad as they ever were and come down with a hard bump once the euphoria of Christmas is over and, with the arrival of New Year, they begin to think of making a new start.”
However, if things do deteriorate to a point where separation cannot be avoided, Janet is one of only a few solicitors accredited and fully qualified by Resolution, the Family Lawyers Association, to lead couples through the process of collaborative law, a new more friendly and amicable approach to dealing with divorce.
“Sometimes, talking things through can seem the hardest challenge of all, especially when a relationship breaks down, as hurt, bitterness and anger are often the strongest feelings,” she explains.
“But the collaborative approach is fundamentally changing the way people think about family law and getting divorced.
“For couples who genuinely seek a fair solution and want to minimise the pain of family breakdown, it may offer the best way forward.”
Janet believes that the best solutions are those which couples work out themselves, in a way in which everyone involved can share.
“That is what collaborative law is all about, reaching solutions together to ease the pain of a relationship breakdown and create the best chance of building a brighter future for all concerned,” she says. “It’s as friendly a solution as there can be!”
She added: “It sounds straightforward, but for this to work it needs the right people with the right frame of mind.
“There has to be a genuine desire to make it work and a willingness to fully and honestly disclose information, especially financial.
“You also need skilled, trained solicitors who are practised in working this new way.
“You will benefit from having your own independent legal adviser but you are in control and do not have court proceedings to deal with and you set the agenda so that you talk about the things that matter most to you and your family. It’s about all sitting around a table together and being honest with each other.
“If children are involved, this amicable process will help then to come to terms with the separation.
“Collaborative lawyers also sign an agreement with you which disqualifies them from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down for any reason. This means they are committed to helping you to find the best solutions by agreement rather than conflict.”