‘Tis the Season for Divorce?

Research from the University of Washington has suggested that divorce filings in some states consistently peak in the months of August and March.  The study noted that divorce filings may be driven by a “domestic ritual” calendar and suggested that the increased filings may be the result of unhappy spouses realizing that the holidays or vacations did not live up to their expectations. Unhappy couples often think that holidays or vacations are good times for them to mend their relationships. They seem to develop an optimistic approach thinking that things will be better in the relationship if they have a nice holiday or vacation together, as a family.

In New Hampshire, the attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay have experienced a similar increase in divorce consultations and filings in the first quarter of the year (after the holidays) and in the summer (after the kids get out of school).  We have traditionally felt that the biggest reason for the increase in consultations and filings was more practical. We believed that the increase during the first quarter of the year had more to do with not wanting to face divorce or force the kids to face divorce during a time of year that is supposed to be happy (i.e. the holidays). It seemed to us that the increase in a divorce action in the summer was based on the possibility of the family needing to sell the family home and therefore, changing the kids’ schools. We had not considered the possibility that couples may have delayed pursuing divorce feeling that holidays or vacations would bring change to a troubled relationship. This realization reminds us that family dynamics and reasons for divorce are different for all people.

Whatever the time of year and whatever the reason, clients regularly tell us that going through a divorce was the most difficult time in their lives. The emotional and financial toll is devastating to an individual, and the family as a whole.  Our experience with divorce shows us that divorce is at least 90% emotional and only about 10% legal.  This means that helping our clients to manage their emotional responses during the divorce process can provide tremendous benefit to the client and allow the divorce process to be less adversarial and less expensive.  Divorcing clients regularly experience a variety of emotions including anger, sadness, fear, distrust, and many others.  It is often the emotional reactions and responses that prevent divorces from settling, not the complexity of the legal issues.

Collaborative practice can help clients manage their emotions and get through divorce in a healthier and less adversarial way.  Collaborative practice is a method of dispute resolution that aims to keep divorcing couples and their children out of court.  Unlike traditional divorce, Collaborative practice gives couples more control over the outcome of their separation. Rather than having a judge decide the family’s future through litigation, Collaborative Practice allows couples to make flexible agreements that address the financial, psychological, and legal aspects of divorce. In addition to often being less expensive than a traditional divorce, collaborative divorce takes the entire family into account. “Moms and dads can’t divorce, husbands and wives do and that is one big difference,”  Anne Lucas, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and member of King Collaborative Law in Seattle said.

The Collaborative Practice team is made up of a collaboratively trained lawyer for each party and a combination of collaboratively trained neutral financial, mental health, and/or child specialists. These jointly retained specialists help couples navigate the emotional aspects of divorce and negotiate solutions that are mutually beneficial to the whole family.

For more information about collaborative divorce check out this short video.

Attorney Catherine McKay has been practicing Collaborative Divorce since 2000.  If you have questions or wish to learn more about the process and how it can benefit your family anticipating a divorce, contact Attorney McKay.