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When Summer Vacation leads to Separation
Family law advice from Lucy Thomas, Consultant Family Solicitor/Mediator with Setfords Solicitors

The American, couple legal adviceGood advice sought early could reduce relationship tensions on vacation. © Kzenon
Family lawyers will tell you that September and January are their busiest months. The reason is that for many families summer vacations (and Christmas) present unique stresses and strains.

Summer vacations are, for many, loaded with expectation. They have often been planned for months, at great expense, and so the pressure to ‘be happy’ and ‘enjoy’ becomes immense. This can often magnify difficulties in a relationship. For others, simply having the kids at home for weeks on end can be stressful and, again, highlight difficulties between parents whose relationship may already be under pressure.

So how can those long vacations be managed to minimise difficulty? What steps could be taken to ease tensions? For couples who are contemplating a trial or more permanent separation it might be sensible to consider separate vacation time, perhaps with some periods of overlap as a family. Separate as well as joint outings with children could also assist. Some couples say that a trial separation is the only way for them to find clarity and so be able to address problems and work towards a possible reconciliation. If that applies, then it can be helpful to discuss and agree the specifics of that arrangement in a mediation session. This provides a neutral/safe environment in which finances and arrangements for any children can be agreed.

If you are considering a more formal separation the key is to be informed and prepared so that you can, hopefully, deal with matters as cost effectively and amicably as possible. A one-off meeting with a lawyer could be sensible. You don’t need to feel that you are ‘opening the floodgates’ or that you will then be pressured down a route which you may not be ready for, but make it clear that you want to explore your options and know where you stand. For some people just knowing what the future might look like (financially or otherwise) can be a helpful and effective way of addressing anxieties and fears. There is so much 'unsolicited' advice available (online, via friends etc.) that it can be overwhelming. Fear and conflict often arise because people simply don’t know what the future might hold. Taking some initial advice can provide comfort and calm, enabling you to make decisions from an informed position. You might then feel more able to discuss matters and reach agreements with your partner directly which has to be the best outcome for you and for your family.

The summer can often mean long periods of travel and so it is important, particularly from an American perspective, to take advice in the appropriate place. This could include England as well as your home state in the US. The rules which apply in one country may be very different from another. That is why, for American families living abroad, early advice is not only preferable but could be crucial.


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