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Divorcing after the summer holidays

In the UK, approximately 40% of marriages end in divorce. For years, most people thought that the Christmas period was the time that most of these splits happened, but in fact, it’s after the summer holidays that’s the peak period for separations. At a time which should be happy, full of fun, and 100% family orientated, warring couples are finally reaching breaking point, and reports suggest that Monday 30th September is the peak date for UK couples to finally call it a day.

While things over the last couple of years have been far from ordinary due to Covid, this pattern has repeated itself for the last decade, according to a study by the University of Washington. The peak is driven by a ‘domestic ritual calendar’ that dictates family behaviour. This can be far more focused during the holidays when the kids are at home and the financial pressure of organising and paying for holidays eats into the family budget and the nerves of couples that are already at breaking point.

The University of Washington study also concluded that people’s expectations are much higher at this time of the year, and if those expectations are not met (on holiday, for example) then it can lead to a breakdown in the relationship.

Many couples who are already having marital issues may also see the summer holidays as an opportunity to ‘mend broken fences’ and try to get the relationship back on track. However, as holidays can be surprisingly emotionally charged times, all that happens is that the cracks that are already there in the relationship become painfully obvious. The result is that after the holiday, the situation goes downhill rapidly and by the end of September (that key date of the 30th mentioned earlier) the relationship has reached its end and divorce proceedings start.

Why wait?

Many people looking at this would wonder why couples are delaying the inevitable until after the summer holidays. In the majority of cases, this is so that the family can have ‘one last holiday’ together, and that the children’s feelings are spared for at least a few more weeks. 

It also means that the divorce is in process before that other family ‘deadline’, Christmas.

Divorce is not an instant thing, so if you want conversations and relationships to be in a good place before that big family Christmas Day dinner, then the end of the summer holidays is the time to do it. Getting things sorted earlier in the year makes it easier for couples to agree on the arrangements for this important holiday. It also means that the kids are already in the process of coming to terms with the end of their parent’s relationship before the pressure of Christmas kicks in.

Summer holiday divorces are a combination of factors – a relationship that’s already under strain, the financial stress of paying for holidays, the fact that couples who would rather be apart are forced to spend more time together, the stress of work and child-care commitments, and unreasonable expectations. This last point can also be amplified by the effects of social media, and the underlying feeling of dissatisfaction that many struggling couples face.

How do you tell the kids?

Letting the kids know that you and your partner are going your separate ways right after the family holiday can come as a real blow, especially if mum and dad have made a concerted effort to give the kids that ‘dream family holiday’. The realisation can lead to extreme hostility, resentment, and long-term anger as the kids feel they’ve been ‘duped’ by mum and dad into thinking everything was okay.

Be honest with your kids. They’re smarter than you think and have probably realised that things are not going well. Speaking to your kids about a divorce is never going to be an easy conversation, and it will be different for every situation. But honesty and talking to them without playing the ‘blame game’ is important if they’re going to come to terms with the situation.

It’s important to speak to a member of our family team at the earliest opportunity so that you’re able to talk through all of the issues of a relationship breakdown and to work out the best way forward for not only you, but the kids. If your summer holiday looks like it’s going to end in a parting of the ways, talk in confidence to a family law expert today.

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