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Beware those with grim tidings of the divorcing hour

Tis the witching hour of night,

Or bed is the moon and bright,

And the stars they glisten, glisten,

Seeming with bright eyes to listen

For what listen they?

John Keats

I really didn’t want to get involved with the annual mischief that is ‘Divorce Day’ (or is it ‘Divorce Week’, as The Sun recently suggested?). But I did. Now, hot on the heels of that nonsense comes news of the phenomenon of ‘Divorce Hour’. An article in The Telegraph on Sunday declared that we now know “the peak time couples decide to take the plunge”. Oh goody.

OK, so where to start with this?

Let’s have a look at what the article says – after all, it may contain quite useful information, although I confess my hopes were not high when I began reading it. We are told that ‘Divorce Hour’, which is the busiest time for online divorce enquiries, “is between 12.30 and 1am, with 15 per cent of overnight queries coming during this window, according to one set of figures.”

Right, now call me old-fashioned, but I thought an hour comprised sixty minutes, not just thirty minutes, which my quick calculation tells me is the period between 12.30 and 1am. Hmm. I suppose ‘Divorce Half-hour’ doesn’t quite have the right ring about it.

Still, the writer of the article doesn’t seem too concerned about such trivialities as the length of an hour, as she swiftly moves on to inform us that:

“The Co-op said 12 per cent of its enquiries during the busy second weekend of January came in between 10pm and 6am, with similar levels seen during the whole of December.”

After which the article seems to forget the concept of ‘one hour’ entirely.

In other words, we are left with the profound news that people whose marriages are in difficulty think about it more whilst lying awake at night. Who could have possibly guessed?

At this point I am seriously considering not continuing with this post, as I feel the will to live draining away from me. I remind myself that I am a professional, and I must therefore carry on, for the sake of ensuring that my readers are better informed.

So (yes, I am too weary to worry about starting a sentence with ‘so’), what else does the article tell us? Well, not a lot, actually. We get a few quotes from Tracey Moloney, head of family law at Co-op Legal Services, speculating as to the reasons for ‘Divorce Hour/Night’, along with the inevitable response from Harry Benson, Research Director (read: press and media man) at the Marriage Foundation, who tells us that:

“Having a smartphone by the bed undoubtedly allows us to execute decisions at unusual hours, for better or worse.”

But, he continues:

“One in ten couples don’t get much further than the divorce application. So it’s never over until it’s over.”

That old cliché may be true, but my experience when practising matched that of Ms Maloney, who said that:

“We don’t have many divorces that don’t go through whether they’re started at 1pm or 1am.”


So, dear reader, do you feel better informed? No, I thought not. I suppose that if there’s one thing we can take from all of this, is that in these days of internet-based services there is no longer any nine-to-five Monday-to-Friday constraint upon accessing legal services. That may be seen as a good thing in many quarters, and I’m sure it can be very convenient, but my advice would always be: by all means access information whenever you want, but if you can possibly do so, sit down and have a chat with a human lawyer, before you issue divorce proceedings (or, indeed, before taking any significant step within those proceedings).

Of course, the key phrase there is “if you can possibly do so”. Sadly, in these post-legal aid days many simply can’t afford face-to-face legal advice. For them, my advice would be: of course worrying about the state of your marriage is likely to keep you awake at night, but at the very least wait until the cold light of day before taking any steps you may regret.

Right, now can we please move on from ‘Divorce [Whatever period of time is likely to make the best headline]’?

Unfortunately, I doubt it…

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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