It’s a sorry admission to make but my Twitter feed is full of family lawyers and family law commentators so inevitably I have read again that Divorce Day is set to dawn.
A term coined by the press, Divorce Day refers to the first working Monday in January after the Christmas and New Year festivities when, apparently, lawyers must brace themselves for a spike in people enquiring about a divorce.
For many family lawyers, including me, this day is a myth. Granted, we have peaks in enquiries, September is often a busy month, but on no one day in the year do the floodgates open and people queue down the street desperate to get divorced. This is not Black Friday (another media-created phenomenon) or the first day of the Harrods sale or even the 6 am start Next sale.
Films, television, celebrity news and social media have all played a part in the transition of divorce as a taboo subject to a much more casual topic of conversation. Now, don’t get me wrong in many ways this is fantastic progress. Nobody should be stuck in an unhappy or abusive relationship. However, to trivialise divorce, to make marriage seem as returnable as your unwanted Christmas presents only serves to destabilise a cornerstone of our society.
The idea that spending too much time together at Christmas arguing over family politics or “New Year – new me” triggers a call to your nearest divorce lawyers only skates over the emotional internal wrangling those individuals are going through as they think about the impact on their spouses, their children, the grandparents and the wider family and friends.
The fairy-tale celebrity weddings that abruptly end within the year with a (fictitious) “quickie divorce”, sends a message that marriage is dispensable and show nothing of the hurt, pain and upset a divorce can cause.
Most of the clients I advise do not decide to get divorced because it’s a Monday or because it’s the new year. If I sensed that they had, I would urge them to look at options to try to save their marriage. Instead, most have been considering it for a long time, sometimes years. Making the final decision to speak to a family lawyer and get legal advice is part of a process. It’s a huge step and not something that is or should ever be dictated by seasons, by the time of year.
Behind the media coverage on Divorce Day are people and families dealing with a relationship breakdown and all the emotions that this brings. Let’s not condense that down into just one day.
This year, I hope that Divorce Day has had its day.