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Divorces spike in the summer. Here’s how to prepare for the end, experts say

By USA Today (TNS) - Jun 25,2019 - Last updated at Jun 27,2019

AFP photo

Summer means flip-flops, barbecues, sunshine and... peak divorce season?

With children out of school and family vacations planned, summer can be a time that adds stress to many marriages. But it can also be a time to start planning for divorce if a spouse is considering it, family law and psychology experts say.

Divorce filings consistently tick up in August and March, according to a study presented in 2016 at the American Sociological Association. The research, done by University of Washington sociologists, analysed filings in Washington state between 2001 and 2015 and found the biannual pattern.

“If there are problems in the marriage, they often get exacerbated when couples spend more time together if things are not going well, and then we see that spike when they return to their routine,” said Jennifer Brandt, an attorney based in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Brandt and Eric Wrubel, a New York divorce attorney, say they also see increased filings continue into September when kids return to school. Often, the spike picks back up in January with the new year. But what is important, when possible, is to plan for a split ahead of time, they say.

“You should start your divorce planning months before you want to get divorced,” Wrubel said.

Summer is often a good time to have conversations with your attorney, financial adviser and, of course, your family.

“A lot of times people go through life and don’t know, ‘How many bank accounts do we have’ or ‘How many credit cards do we have?’ ‘Am I on the title of the house?’” Wrubel said. “You want to know what’s in your checking account, what’s in your savings account. You want to start collecting information.”

Among the practical steps spouses should take during the summer months, Wrubel and Brandt say: Taking stock of assets; collecting any records that may be needed, like phone records and credit card statements; and assembling a team of family, friends and legal aid to guide you through the divorce.

Summer also allows a spouse thinking of divorce to reflect on whether it’s right for them and what they’d want from the divorce, Wrubel said.

“People overlook really figuring what they want,” he said. “They say they want a divorce and they want to do it and they’re ready, but they’re not because they don’t know the legal ramifications.”

One option couples could consider if they are unsure where their marriage stands is discernment counselling, a type of counselling for spouses “on the brink” of divorce that helps them “pick a path” between staying together or splitting, says Amy Wagner, a licensed clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist at Northwestern University’s Family Institute.

“When people get caught up in their own emotions, it’s hard to step back and carefully make a decision that is clear for them,” Wagner said.

Wagner also said that many couples wait too long to get help.

“It’s really much more challenging to try to resolve issues when they’ve been going on for years and years,” she said.

For spouses who know there’s trouble in their marriage but do not want to begin divorce proceedings themselves, it is still a good idea to get legal advice, said Brandt.

Divorce “usually doesn’t come completely out of left field. It never hurts to get some general information”, Brandt said. Sometimes, the biggest stress for individuals is just not knowing what the actual outcomes of a divorce may be, she added.

As for children, Brandt says it is best not to involve them until it affects their lives.

While being honest with children about conflict in the family is good, parents should wait to tell their kids until there is a concrete plan in place as it relates to the divorce, Wagner added. Wagner also said there’s no “universal” time that is best for children to tell them about the divorce.

“It’s not a cookie cutter approach. It’s not a ‘one advice fits all,’” added Wrubel. “Kids are different, but kids are resilient.”

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