As Family Lawyers, we help our clients with all areas of law and legal formalities regarding family, relationships, children, etc. One of these areas is divorce. Around this time of year, there is a lot of talk about “divorce day”.
What is Divorce Day?
The first working Monday of the New Year is often referred to as “divorce day”. This is the day when, according to media reports, family lawyers see an increase in enquiries after Christmas and the new year. This year, divorce day is technically Monday, 8th January 2024.
Is Divorce Day a Myth?
According to our experience, yes, the whole concept of “divorce day” is a myth perpetuated equally by the marketing departments of law firms keen to generate business and journalists looking for a story.
It is correct that we tend to see an increase in enquiries following holiday periods, but this is to be expected when most law forms are closed during the holiday periods. However, people do not decide to divorce based on the time of year.
Christmas is a magical time for some, but it can be a tough time for those in unhappy relationships. The statistics on police callouts in cases involving domestic abuse sadly bear this out. We wrote a piece about this before Christmas: https://watsonmorrisfamilylaw.co.uk/supporting-victims-of-domestic-abuse-at-christmas/
Divorce Facts in the UK
The recent ONS statistics show a mixed picture, and there is no evidence of a January spike in recorded cases.
It is correct that divorce rates have risen in the last few years – 113,505 couples divorced in 2021 compared to 103,592 couples in 2020, which is a 9.6% increase.
The ONS also considers trends over a longer period of time, noting changes in the percentage of marriages ending in divorce by their 10th wedding anniversary. Back in 1965, 1 in 10 couples who married that year were divorced by their 10th anniversary. This increased to 1 in 4 couples for those married in 1995. However, for couples married in 2011 (the most recent cohort to have reached this milestone), we have seen a decrease, with fewer than 1 in 5 marriages ending in divorce by their 10th wedding anniversary.
Once couples reach their 20th year of marriage, they are significantly less likely to divorce.
Support when divorcing in different circumstances
Making the decision to leave a long-term relationship and take legal advice is never an easy one, no matter what time of the year.
No-Fault Divorce System
Separations can happen for a wide variety of reasons, and all cases are different. Not all separations are acrimonious, and some couples come to us merely to address the formalities. This could be limited to advice regarding the process of divorce itself, which has become far less acrimonious by the introduction of the no-fault system, which means couples no longer have to find reasons to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage. Other cases may involve advice regarding the implementation of a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement and the steps required to ensure the parties are financially protected against financial claims in the future.
More complex divorce cases
We also see more complex cases where there is sadly no prospect of an early agreement, trust has broken down, and financial insecurity or problems with the arrangements for children mean that urgent action is needed. In those cases, our role is to ensure the client is guided and supported through an often time-consuming and forensic legal process.
Alongside legal advice, it is also necessary to consider the emotional well-being of all our clients, which we do through collaboration with our in-house coaches.
Making sure divorce is the answer
One of the important steps we take in all cases is to discuss what steps may have been taken to try and save the marriage and whether the breakdown is considered final.
Professional help can be invaluable when working to save a marriage. It can provide a supportive and non-judgmental place for people to identify the problems they face in their relationship. In suitable cases, relationship counselling can be an option before embarking on the legal process of divorce. This can be successful, but even if not, it can be helpful for the couple to understand how they have come to this point, and this will narrow any areas of disagreement which might otherwise create costly issues in the divorce process.
Our experience shows that nobody starts a marriage or relationship thinking about divorce or separation, and clients do not consult lawyers for advice without considering the significance of doing so and being very clear that it is the right thing to do.
Final Thoughts on Divorce Day 2024
Although “Divorce Day” doesn’t technically exist, the new year provides an opportunity for hope and optimism and an important symbol for change and renewal. If you require help discussing issues within your relationship, including taking legal advice, the team at Watson Morris is here to help you.
Written by Peter Morris
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