January - the Season of Divorce

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-- A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

The first week of January (followed by the ‘back-to-school-week” of September) is the busiest time for divorce lawyers, family therapists, and family court clerks.  More separations occur in this period than any other. 

Why? It is a time of resolutions and life changes. The close quarters of the holidays were intolerable and disappointing. Parents hold off for the routine when school is back in session. A new paramour put up with a Christmas delay but demands a break-up by New Year's. And, in part, there is a bubble from spouses giving it one last try during the holidays.

There is no good time for a separation. For spouses and parents, this is the "least bad" time because children are back in school, everyone at work and in the community are starting new schedules, and there is some time to spend on working out the details of the change.

Overwhelming: Separating parents need to educate themselves about a lot of things. In the coming days, weeks and months many life changing decisions have to be made respecting:

  1. A parent’s physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing (stay safe!)
  2. Finding professional help – lawyer, mediator, therapist, financial advisor;
  3. Housing;
  4. Support issues (child, spousal and alimony support);
  5. Dealing with reactions of friends and family;
  6. Pensions, investments and taxes;
  7. Property division;
  8. Dealing with all the logistics and decisions involved in moving a residence;
  9. Mourning the loss of your dreams / relationship; and
  10. Planning the best possible future for the children involved.

Most people know more about the rules of their cell phone carrier than the complicated, arbitrary and often counter intuitive laws respecting separation and divorce. The Internet is helpful, but because each jurisdiction has small but important differences, specific information to a parent’s particular situation is difficult to determine.

For children, divorce also never comes at a convenient time. Unlike parents, just when children are starting a new session of school, they are distracted by their family’s break-up. Not surprisingly, studies repeatedly show the divorce hurts children’s academic performance and self-confidence. Often times, parents take a ‘make-it-up-as-they-go-along’ approach to planning a child’s scheduled time with each parent. Parents are going through a lot and have an extra layer of appointments and distractions so it is hard to juggle the children’s needs. This places children constantly in the middle of stress and conflict. Children are affected in many more ways from both the separation process and from poor parenting arrangements.

During divorce children want:

  • to be protected from adult disputes,
  • to know that they will maintain relationships with both parents, and
  • be reassured life as they know it will not be lost.

The Fair Parenting Project provides a free, best practices based parenting plan (schedule and protocols for children with separated parents) that is integrated with a growing number of children’s activities and service providers across Canada. By opting into the common Fair Parenting Plan, parents save themselves headaches while providing opportunities for their children to avoid conflict and participate in their communities. More information is available at http://FairParenting.com, or consult with a qualified family law professional.