The Christmas season is normally a favourite time of the year for many families. However, for some, it may also be the worst time and certainly not one to look forward to.

Amongst us are those who appear to be in a happy family unit and indeed a happy marriage and yet, behind closed doors, it is not quite so. The mere thought of spending all that time together therefore becomes most stressful and a source of anxiety.

It is the thought of welcoming the extended family for the Christmas lunch and having to play happy families not only in front of the children but also in front of parents, siblings and in-laws. It is also the thought of the aftermath and how things will be going back to how they were, or even worse.

There is then a constant flow of mixed emotions: the hope that things might improve in the New Year and beyond and regrets for not ending a relationship that died a long time ago before the festive season. There is also a feeling of loyalty and duty to the children not to separate and break a family that could potentially still be happy.

Such parents usually have the comfort and security of a work routine throughout the year and so holidays, including the Christmas break, in families such as these, will normally be a source of torment and stress. This partly explains why there is usually a surge in divorce proceedings being initiated in the New Year, when some of these couples realise that their family situation cannot continue indefinitely.

Christmas is a time of the year when people should be happy. It simply cannot be right that people must sit with their family and others, suffering in silence, whilst others are enjoying themselves regardless of what pain some might be in. In fact, those enjoying themselves might not know anything about the situation and assume that all is well.

There is no right or wrong time to initiate divorce proceedings. Whether it is long before Christmas to end tensions during family gatherings, in the New Year in order to make a fresh start, at the start of the summer to prevent instability with the children’s current school year, it will be the right time whenever one decides to do what’s right for one’s family.

Support is available to any couple facing difficulties in their marriage, whether by way of marriage counselling to repair whatever damage has been caused, or by way of taking legal advice if the marriage has indeed come to an end. There is light at the end of the tunnel and divorce may actually be the start of a happier life. As they say, life is short and so one must be happy, including at Christmas time.

So, if you are one of the above referred to and are worried about the forthcoming festive season, try to think of the positives: this might be the last year you have to pretend. A much happier decade awaits you in the New Year, so it is the time to be jolly after all.

A very Merry Christmas to you all and a happy and healthy 2020.

Caption: Sophia Mellor, Solicitor in the Matrimonial Department at Blythe Liggins LLP

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