— Sofia Lagergren is a solicitor at McKinnells in Lincoln, specialising in family law. She deals with issues concerning contact with and residence of children, divorce, civil partnership and financial issues following the breakdown of relationships.
All family lawyers know that the period immediately after Christmas and the New Year break brings a major increase in divorce work.
Couples who recognise their relationship has broken down will often postpone any separation, especially where there are children involved, until after the holiday. Others, used not to spending much time together, come to realise they have little in common any more when a prolonged break forces them into each other’s company.
Add the stress of the cost of Christmas, the company of those dreaded in-laws, short days with no sunshine and the general gloomy financial outlook and there is little wonder that a shaky marriage will often totter.
With the New Year, then, people so affected will usually make straight to their solicitor to get a divorce underway as soon as possible. They will then often be surprised, at least to start with, when the solicitor does not immediately go along with the assumption that divorce is inevitable.
Most responsible solicitors will often try to get the client to focus on what has gone wrong and whether the marriage can be saved. Divorce can be stressful, expensive and will almost inevitably lead to pain for all involved. If a marriage has any spark left in it at all then it should be nurtured and only if there is no alternative should a marriage be ended.
That said, there are some marriages that cannot be saved.
Spike Milligan said: “As the bar emptied, it showed a couple in the corner, both holding drinks and staring at each other with loathing. He knew her as Mrs. Jones: she knew him as Mr. Jones. Married 30 years and with no divorce allowed in Ireland they were bound together in mutual detestation.”
In such circumstances, divorce does allow a dead relationship to have a decent burial. Even then, though, the good family lawyer will try to get those involved to focus on the positives. Two people who once thought enough of each other to want to spend their lives together should not spend that time in recrimination instead.
Whatever the surface reason for the breakdown of the marriage, it is rare that it is all one-sided. When deciding on whether or not grounds for divorce exist, the court does not look at blame. The reality is that usually both parties are responsible for things going wrong. One may have had an affair. They may not have done if the other had shown more interest and kindness. Both are usually to blame. If they can accept this, then the divorce will be less expensive, there will be less pain and there can be hope of a new start without the bile of bitterness and recrimination.
If they can be persuaded to accept that, then they can focus on what is important (looking after the children, sorting out a mutually satisfactory and fair financial outcome) rather than tearing strips off each other.