It doesn’t matter whether ‘Divorce Day’ is a thing or not

Divorce|January 2nd 2019

My three top tips for getting through your Divorce Day (and beyond)

Every year at this time family lawyers debate over whether there is, or isn’t, such a thing as ‘Divorce Day’, the busiest day of the year for divorce lawyers, when more people seek a divorce than on any other day. Of course, the debate is academic: if you are seeking a divorce today, then today is Divorce Day for you.

In case there are any readers who have not heard of ‘Divorce Day’ (where have you been?), I suppose I should explain it in a little more detail.

The popular media will tell you that today (or possibly next Monday, the first day of the first full working week of the year) is the day when family lawyers receive more new divorce instructions than on any other day of the year. The idea is that the Christmas break was the final straw for many marriages, with spouses realising, after being forced to spend a less than happy holiday with their other half, that it is time to untie the knot, and make a fresh start in the New Year.

And it is not just the media. Many family lawyers will swear that Divorce Day is a real thing. Many others, however, will be equally adamant that it is nothing more than a media invention, useful for filling a few column inches, or a few minutes of a news programme, in an otherwise quiet news week. The first week in January, they say, does not come with a particular spike in new divorce instructions. They also, I’m sure, feel that the whole idea of ‘Divorce Day’ is somewhat tasteless.

Every year at this time I see family lawyers on social media arguing for one side or the other. I used to partake in the argument itself, but these days I don’t really feel qualified to do so, not having practised now for some nine years, and therefore not being able to comment by reference to my own recent experience.

But if you are one of those who has decided now is the moment to call time on your marriage then it doesn’t matter whether Divorce Day is a real thing or not. This is your Divorce Day, and you are going to have to deal with it.

Of course, divorce is about much more than just initiating the process, scary though that may be. Your Divorce Day is just the beginning.

A lawyer can’t tell you whether or not you should commence divorce proceedings, but they can give you advice to help you get through the process. To strip things down to the bare essentials, here are my top three tips for getting through your Divorce Day, and beyond:

  1. If you have dependent children, put them first. This really is the most important thing to remember, at all stages of the divorce process. It doesn’t just mean sorting out arrangements for who the children will live with, or for how much child support the other parent will pay, it also means considering the effect upon the children of your actions throughout the process. Long and highly contested financial remedy proceedings, for example, could have a damaging effect upon children witnessing their parents warring with one another.

And when it comes to arrangements for the children, always ask yourself: is this really best for them, or is it just best for me? Many parents fall into the trap of thinking that just because they want a particular arrangement, that must be best for their children.

  1. Get the best advice you can, and follow it. By all means accept the support of friends and family, but don’t accept ‘legal advice’ from them, however well-meaning it might be. Many is the time that family lawyers have to explain the folly of advice received ‘in the pub’. If you can afford it, instruct a good family lawyer. Even if you can’t afford to have them represent you throughout the process, get some initial advice if you possibly can.

And follow the advice. Obviously, it is pointless paying for advice and then not following it. I’m not saying that you have to do everything your lawyer advises, but there are many clients who think they know best and simply refuse to listen to any advice that is contrary to what they have already decided should happen. Needless to say, that is a recipe for disaster.

  1. Lastly, make every reasonable effort to remain amicable, and to settle matters by agreement. I know that staying amicable can be easier said than done, but it really does help, especially if there are children. Remember, parents will still have to deal with each other. You don’t have to remain friends with your former spouse, just on reasonable speaking terms.

And if you do, then it will be so much more likely that you will be able to resolve matters by agreement, rather than having to go through long, costly, and possibly destructive contested court proceedings.

And you should try to settle. Apart from anything else, any party who does not make a reasonable effort to resolve matters by agreement, whether by negotiation, mediation or some other means, will be frowned upon by the court. But it is about more than that, and more than just avoiding contested court proceedings. You are likely to be far happier with a settlement reached by agreement than with one imposed upon you by the court.

If it is Divorce Day for you then I hope these basic tips will help you get through it, and the process that it begins.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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