Did your Partner Ruin the Holidays Again?
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another winter holiday, almost all of us agree there’s something special about this time of year. It’s the season for giving, sharing, and being with friends and family. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of great stress, especially for those in difficult relationships.
January is known for being one of the busiest months for family law attorneys. I am not sure exactly why – perhaps people make a New Year’s resolution to change their lives, or perhaps something happened over the holidays that drove their relationship to the point of no return. Whatever the reason, if you are thinking about separating from your partner or obtaining a divorce, below are a few things you should think about before ‘taking the plunge’. Please note that I do not intend this list to be all-inclusive, as every situation is unique:
1. Domestic Violence : If you are living in domestic violence situation, be careful. In fact, about 75% of the calls to law enforcement for intervention and assistance in domestic violence occur after separation from batterers. (Barbara Hart, Remarks to the Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, April 1992). You need to know this statistic when planning to separate from an abusive partner.
It is important, if not vital, to make sure you have a safe place to go to when leaving an abusive partner. If there are children involved, it is also obviously important to ensure their safety, and additionally, to ensure you don’t say or do anything that could increase the chances of losing custody of your children, thereby putting your children at further risk of abuse. If you or your children are a victim of domestic violence, whether you are male or female, I would suggest calling the Centre County Women’s Resource Center Hotline at (814) 234-5050 for ideas about how to obtain shelter, counseling and other assistance.
2. Prepare for Conflict : If you decide to separate from your partner, and your partner does not want the separation, prepare for conflict. One local psychologist said to me a while back: “I find that separations go how the relationship went.” What she meant was, if someone has had a rocky relationship, their separation is likely to be rocky. Conversely, if the relationship was a relatively disconnected one, post-separation is not usually high-conflict. Of course, if your partner knows you want to separate, and you are able to speak civilly to him/her, try to get an agreement on as many issues as possible before separating. Having an agreement or understanding with an ex-partner will often decrease the anxiety about what’s going to happen to the children, or to money or personal property.
Preparing for conflict can also include obtaining counseling for yourself and/or your children. If separating from your partner becomes a ‘rocky road’, or you anticipate it will be one, counseling can be vital. I have had so many clients come through my doors that appeared to have a good legal case for, as an example, custody, but were unable to stay emotionally strong during legal proceedings. It hurt their case, not to mention their emotional well-being.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice for any specific legal problem.