Saskatoon mediator offers tips to navigate so-called 'divorce month'

For many, the start of a new year means a new beginning — but for some couples, it seems, it can also mean the beginning of the end of a relationship.

January has been dubbed "the divorce month" by some lawyers, who say they see a spike in filings in the first month of the new year (though one U.S. study actually pegged the peak months for splits as March and August).

But there's a reason people may be thinking about divorce in January, says Tracy Kendel, who owns the Saskatoon franchise of Fairway Divorce Solutions.

"The holidays bring out a lot of emotion, a lot of family time," the divorce mediator said. "Some have just had enough."

As people start back to work, she said, the first week of January is also often the first post-holiday opportunity they have to reach a lawyer.

Regardless of when it happens, Kendel offers some advice for those considering a divorce.

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She said there is often a misconception about how much clients need to have organized before they meet with a lawyer. The best thing to do, she said, is to first be educated about the options available.

One option is mediation. This route allows a couple to work with a neutral mediator to resolve disagreements about the terms of their divorce. 

Kendel said this path can result in friendlier divorce settlements, especially if children are involved. 

"You're able to attend your kids' graduations [and] weddings," she said. "If you can have an input on the decisions that you're making, you're able to be more content with the agreement you're going to sign." 

Young children caught in the middle of a divorce should be a couple's "No. 1 focus," said Kendel. She said it's important not to drag them into the dispute, but you should tell them what's going on. 

"[Show] them that you are still a family unit, just living in two separate homes," she said. 

Divorce, said Kendel, can be civil. But that all depends on how the two sides act.

"Once you've decided that you're going to separate or divorce, you're in control," she said.