Most western countries report that the time after summer holidays is peak season for family lawyers, and that is true in Australia too. There’s lots of superficial reporting about this so called phenomenon, but the reasons for it are rarely explored. After many years practising as a family lawyer, and looking at the research, I feel safe to say that no marriage ends in the time span of the summer holidays.

For most people the summer holidays are between two and six weeks. We are told that people contemplate separation for between two and six years before they make a decision to leave their partner, so the idea that it is the family holiday that kills a marriage doesn’t stack up. Just about every couple can tell you that family holidays don’t always meet expectations, and when there are young children involved, it can just feel like doing more of the same in a different location. Spending unusually long periods of time with a spouse can be a bonus, or it can start to rub after hours, days or weeks. But that’s not the same thing as your marriage starting to rub, is it?

My experience suggests that the notorious summer holiday divorce comes about because it is the last straw, or people have time to think about their relationship, (and are probably not able to do anything constructive like seek counselling in that setting). But the story I hear more often than any other, is that the start of a new year is the motivator for people to act on what they have been considering for a long time, because they don’t want to do it all again for another unhappy year. The timing can be for other reasons such as wanting one last holiday or festive season for the sake of the children and extended family, one last break at the beach house which might have to be sold, or waiting for the end of the school year. But the “summer divorce” story is not real when you dig a bit deeper than looking at client numbers in family lawyers’ diaries.

There is never a good time to tell your spouse you are leaving if that’s not what they want too. “Summer divorce” is no more difficult than any other, but just don’t be the one who arrives home from the family holiday, puts down their bag and says “Nobody should cry, but I’m leaving now”, and disappear with the pre-packed replacement bag.

It’s smart to access counselling support to make any decision to stay or to go, to let your spouse know about your decision, and to work out how to help your kids through it.

Contact us on 9078 6980 to speak to our case manager about a counselling referral, or to learn about how you can separate amicably and collaboratively with support for every member of your household.

Marguerite Picard

Collaborative Lawyer

Summer Break Survivor