Christmas ghost of nightmares past

Christmas should be the time of year when we are filled with joy, love and anticipation of the holiday season. We are having the family over for a big get together, we open thoughtfully planned gifts, sing carols around a bright and brilliant tree, chill out in the afternoon with some back yard games, music and laughter to be followed by a late evening dinner with more Christmas food treats.

Unfortunately, for some families this is the Disney version of the tinsel time of year. In reality, Christmas can be a time of year bursting at the seams with pressure so dense it could shame a volcano. For some families it’s a miracle to get through the day without arguments or old grievances breaking the surface.

Pressure holidays like Christmas and those of significance for other cultural groups, draw a light on what is not good in a marriage. It may be that a couple have drifted apart, that their needs are not being met in the marriage, that they feel they have become part of the furniture, or that they never got to follow a dream that has seen them become dissatisfied with their lot in life. Family obligations, community expectations, keeping up appearances; these all add to the tinder box of feelings; anger towards having to put on a show for others. Sometimes the joy of the period cannot really be appreciated because some are in unhappy marriage who are just waiting for it to end.

One of the sad realities about this beautiful time of year is that it is also the season that sees couples make decisions which will irrevocably change the dynamics of their families and commence the process to formally end their marriages. They may have been discussing it during the year but where children are concerned some couples will wait until exam time is over and then wait until after the festive season to publically call it quits. The reasons are obvious and designed to minimise the spoiling of these two pivotal times of the year. This means that come the new year, January onwards can be really depressing and hurtful times for adults and children.

It is really important to manage this period sensitively especially for children and elderly parents. Separating couples often are so fixed on their own unhappiness that they forget that other family members are also experiencing terrible emotions. They may not realise that children and elderly parents feel the same anguish and fear over the impending change but perhaps for different reasons. Children are experiencing the collapse of their family, they may feel the anchor in their lives is now no longer there and the security of parents who previously formed a united protective barrier against the world are now not going to be performing this function as one. Elderly parents are worried about how money will be distributed between the couple and will there be enough, if both parents will have equal access to children and what extended family and friends will make of the shocking change occurring. Managing the emotional upheaval for all concerned is the worst part of separation and divorce.

How you work through this transition and ease in the changed dynamics will count for a lot towards how others will respond and cope. It may be beneficial to plan through a few things with your soon to be ex before informing all that you are separating. Think about what questions may be raised and have some ideas on how you will respond. Children will want to know how and when they will see their parents, will they still go to the same schools, who will they see on what holidays etc. Scope out and work through the financial issues so you have an understanding of how a two pronged family will manage on the same resources. Remember, when families separate; expenses go up but income may remain the same.

Why?, well for a start one party is going to move out of the family residence which means perhaps renting accommodation and having to purchase domestic items to furnish and equip that home; not to mention additional utility bills and insurances etc. Having responses ready to “How will you manage financially” when asked by elderly parents will help to ease the stress and trauma they will feel for their child who is separating from a spouse. This pre-planning will also ease your stress and trauma. There is nothing worse than having to drop the divorce bomb on elderly parents and then not have answers to the questions they may automatically fire at you. If you cannot answer them they will think you have acted rashly and erratically and may have less empathy for you. I give you this advice because “Forewarned is forearmed” and when heading into this scenario you need all the tactical advantage you can muster.

If you get to this low point in your life and you are feeling this way over the Christmas and the New Year season; take a deep breath and remember that life goes on and this too shall pass. You will become a happier person, you will restore the happiness in your family, you will be able to get up and become a newer version of you and you will begin to look forward to Christmas in an upcoming year.

The Christmas holiday period may seem haunted with the ghosts of past nightmares experienced in a marriage, which is why this time of year tends to kick off the divorce season for many as their aim is to create a better life.

Elizabeth Camillo is the principal of her own firm specialising in forensic accounting in family law. Her role in a divorce is to search for any hidden money or stashed assets purchased with family money, to review the performance and value a family business, and other indications of financial deceit in a marriage.
Prior to commencing her own practice, Elizabeth investigated the management of client monies by lawyers in the state of Victoria. She is a member of CPA Australia, has a Masters in Professional Accounting and is an accredited trainer. Elizabeth is a regular presenter and trainer at Leo Cussen Centre for Law and the Real Estate Institute of Victoria.
She is the author of the soon to be published book, “Where’s the Money, Honey?: Finding the Hidden Assets in your Divorce”.