Whether you have any intention of following through or not, most of us make the obligatory New Year’s resolutions come January 1st of each year. But ask any divorce attorney out there, and most will tell you that many people resolve to divorce after spending the holidays with their spouse… which is why January and February see a bump in consultations with individuals looking for advice on separating and divorcing in the new year. Even when it is hard and often sad, that New Year’s resolution pressure is just the push some people need to take this next step. With that in mind, here are five helpful tips and things to consider as you decide whether to separate and divorce in 2021.
1. Make the decision. The first step is deciding that this is the right decision for you and your family. The holidays often can put things in perspective for people. If you can’t imagine spending another holiday or summer vacation with your spouse, then it’s probably a good time to explore your options.
2. Do your homework This can mean a lot of things depending on your situation. If you are the spouse without access to finances, maybe it is asking some questions of your spouse who does. If you have access to finances, make a list of everything you and your spouse currently have. Think about what you want things to look like once you separate (who moves out? is this is a good time to sell your current home?) and think about if the timing is right to support those goals and ideas based on what you know or can easily find out.
3. Put your children first. Separation and divorce are never easy on a family. But keeping in mind your children’s health and happiness and making that your goal can help keep things in perspective. Think about what can minimize the impact of divorce and cause the least amount of disruption to your children’s lives. The best outcome for children in divorce usually is a result of two parents working together to put their differences aside despite the change in their marital relationship. Even in good situations, there still needs to be discussion and resolution as to a physical custody schedule, how decisions are made for the kids moving forward, and financial considerations, such as child support and sharing of expenses for the children.
4. Is 2021 the year for you to take these steps? During the Covid-19 pandemic (but with hope on the horizon), is this is best time to separate and divorce? You may want to wait it out until you find a new job, the kids are back in school full time, or finances are more stable. However, divorce is probably one of those things where there is always an excuse not to do it – if we go with the old adage that life is short, there may be no time like the present to start your new life despite what’s going on in the world right now.
5. Schedule the initial consultation. While you can do your homework, think about next steps, and plan for some things on your own, it is best not to take any major steps until you have sat down with an experienced family law attorney. Whether your case is contentious or will be an amicable agreement between you and your spouse, an attorney is able to help you navigate the legal pieces of the puzzle. This can include the process for resolving issues amicably or describing the litigation process and the ins and outs of the court system. Attorneys can also give real-world examples and common pitfalls based on experiences with prior clients. That initial consultation may be the best money you spend to get some guidance on the next steps and help you cover the things you have not thought about yet.
The new year can be the start to a new you. By using the steps above and having that sit-down with a family law attorney, you can come up with a plan to start 2021 off right…no matter what that looks like for you.