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It’s NOT Divorce Day

Please don’t make this Divorce Day

Family lawyers always know when a new year has begun. The media report on an annual phenomenon called  Divorce Day.

This is, I am led to believe, the first working Monday in January after the Christmas and New Year festivities when suddenly divorce enquiries will spike with various trite phrases such as “the New Year brings new beginnings blah blah”. Add in a little extra spice of Covid-lockdown fever and there’s a story right there.

Truth is, I am expecting that this firm will receive a higher than usual volume of enquiries for a Monday. I also expect a lot of other family law practitioners including other professionals working in the area of relationship breakdowns will receive higher enquiries. One simple reason is that as a business we have largely been closed since Christmas Eve.

This morning I noted that, predictably, my Twitter feed was full of family lawyers and commentators tweeting about the big D day, albeit mainly in objection to the concept, in fact, the first report I read (though I have largely kept away from work-related topics for Christmas) was yesterday evening.

I’m not entirely sure of the purpose behind the media reporting it, is it intended to be a self-fulfilling prophesy? Is it to spur those who weren’t too sure about their relationship into making contact with a lawyer? If everybody else is doing it, then why shouldn’t I?

I have practised family law for over two decades and in that time, I have never had a client 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. What I would also say is that if I looked for times of peak enquiries across the year looking back over many years, the one thing I’ve learned is that it is entirely unpredictable. We often find more people seeking advice before Christmas than immediately afterwards.

The myth of divorce day

Making the final decision to speak to a family lawyer and get legal advice often comes at the end of much deliberation and turmoil. It’s a huge step and not something that should be dictated by the time of year. The ramifications for the children of the relationship can be deeply damaging and long-lasting especially if the separation and legal process are acrimonious.

Divorce Day blithely skates past the emotional wrangling people choosing to separate go through: taking a complex process and packaging it as a media-friendly simple decision.

January, however, is a time of reflection for many people who feel their marriage might not be working. The stress of Christmas, financial pressure and family politics are all magnified at this time of year. Before you take any final decisions, here are some thoughts for you.

Be committed

A marriage will not work unless both people work at it. If you want to rebuild your relationship you need to start talking and working together as a team again.

Be accountable

Take responsibility for the part you have played in the breakdown of the marriage. This is not about finger-pointing and blaming each other. You both need to recognise the role you have played and then work together to address those behaviours.

Communication is key

Keeping your tone and language positive makes a huge difference. Make sure you both speak respectfully to each other and listen to what the other person says. We often hear what we want to hear. Don’t make assumptions.

Let go of past issues

Ditch all those old issues. Neither of you can move forward if you cannot get over the past. Challenge niggling resentments and then let them go, for good.

Consider counselling

Professional help can be invaluable when working to save a marriage. I frequently refer my clients to undertake individual or couples counselling.  It provides a supportive and non-judgmental place for people to identify the problems they face in their relationship.

Our divorce directory has a number of counsellors to whom we refer clients.

Nobody starts a marriage or relationship thinking about divorce or separation. Behind the media coverage on Divorce Day are people and families dealing with a relationship breakdown and all the emotional and financial cost that this brings both to the couple but also to their children and wider family. Let’s not trivialise this and package it into just one day.

I have been reading this morning about the rollout of the new Oxford Covid jab which has been called “Operation Hope”. After the year many people endured last year, a new year does provide an opportunity for new hope and new optimism. Sure, we all know that things will not get better quickly but we also know that challenges can also bring us closer together.

Next steps

If you require help in discussing issues within your relationship you can contact your local Relate.

Or look for a local relationship counsellor. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) runs an online directory of BACP registered practitioners that adhere to its high standards. You can use the tool to check whether a counsellor is registered here or search for a counsellor in your local area here.

If however, you have concluded that your relationship has broken down beyond repair, whether you are married, in a civil partnership or a cohabiting relationship then it is important that you get professional legal advice to ensure that you understand what your legal rights and obligations are and what will be the best way to achieve an early resolution that’s right for you and your family.

You can make a confidential enquiry to our Client Care Team who will put you in touch with one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

You can read further advice on divorce on the Stowe Family Law Blog. 

If your partner makes you feel threatened or anxious or you are in an abusive relationship, please do seek advice. The National Domestic Violence Helpline is open 24 hours a day and can be reached on 0808 2000 247 or visit the website.

This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. 

Julian is Stowe Family Law’s Senior Partner and is based in our Leeds.

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