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What does EastEnders tell us about divorce and Christmas?

Let’s be honest, there is no such thing as a merry Christmas in EastEnders with the Christmas Day episode now famous for its dramatic events from tragic deaths to murders to illicit affairs.

But when a recent poll placed the Max and Stacey’s affair reveal from 2007 as the most shocking soap Christmas moment it highlighted that most of them are based on family and relationships dramas.

The Den & Angie divorce

Back in 1986, approximately 30.1 million viewers tuned in on Christmas Day to watch Den serve Angie divorce papers, sealing its position as one of the most popular and shocking soap moments.

Taking place next to the crisp boxes in the Queen Vic, Den informs Angie that he has a letter from his solicitor saying he has filed a petition for divorce and that she needs to get one herself, quickly. Well, at least he gave some good advice.

Possibly served on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, Angie had feigned a terminal illness to keep the marriage going but had revealed all in a drunken conversation on the Orient Express that Den overheard.

So, can you file for a divorce using this as a reason? Specialist family lawyer, Sarah Jane Lenihan from our London office explains:

In order to file for a divorce in England you need to prove to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down which has to be based on one of five facts:

Behaviour of such a nature that you cannot be expected to live with them
2 years separation with consent
5 years separation

If Den had been my client I would have advised him that we could file a divorce based on her behaviour if he felt he could no longer live with her. If not, he would need to wait for two years and even then, it would require Angie’s consent

I would draft a petition for Den including how Angie’s behaviour has impacted him. I often see dishonesty  as a key factor in behaviour petitions whether it is like Angie being dishonest about health/debts/where or who they are spending their time with or dishonesty around addiction whether it be drugs/alcohol or sex.

The Max & Stacey affair

Another memorable Christmas Day moment was in 2007 when the affair between Max and Stacey, who was rather awkwardly married to Max’s son Bradley at the time, was revealed.

Having been caught on camera a few months earlier, the scene somehow made it onto the wedding video which was shown to the whole family in the living room after the presents opening. By July 2009, Stacey was shown signing her divorce papers, albeit reluctantly.

Fast forward to early 2018 and Stacey has been thrown out of her home and in a custody battle with her husband Martin over their three children after she has another short affair with Max on Christmas Eve.

This Christmas, Stacey has been reunited with Martin, but the marriage is struggling with Martin recently declaring “I want a divorce…”

Sarah Jane explains:

It is likely that Bradley issued his divorce based on Stacey’s adultery. However, this would have required Stacey’s to admit the adultery or Bradley to be able to prove it. Without either of these, Bradley would have had to consider issuing a petition on her unreasonable behaviour.

However, I often find that adultery may not have been the root cause of the marriage breaking down, adulterous relationships don’t usually begin within happy marriages. When I first meet a client, I take details of their breakup and the reasons why to assist me in providing the most appropriate approach for that individual, considering all the circumstances of the case.

I am frequently asked by clients, does adultery have any impact on your settlement or spending time with the children?

The answer to this is specific to each case however generally an act of adultery itself would not legally have an impact on either the financial outcome or the individual spending time with their children.

It can have an impact emotionally on the other party which can in turn make negotiation difficult as they feel that the other party should be ‘punished’ for their behaviour.

Relationship worries at Christmas

Christmas can easily put pressure on relationships and marriages. Dubbed Divorce Day, the first Monday in January is apparently the most popular day to start legal procedures for a divorce as marriages meltdown over the festive season.

Well, they certainly do in EastEnders….

If your relationship is struggling to survive Christmas season, the best advice is to seek early legal advice, so you know your rights from the beginning.

You can contact Sarah Jane Lenihan at the contact details below.

Sarah advises on all areas of family law (divorce/dissolution, cohabitation, domestic violence, children) and has worked with a broad spectrum of clients both nationally and internationally.

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