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Post-Christmas relationship breakdowns and the myth of Divorce Day

Every January the team here at LGFL brace themselves for a deluge of “Divorce Day” media stories.

As any experienced family lawyer will tell you, an annual Divorce Day is a complete myth. However, the myth has its roots in the reality of fracturing relationships in the post-Christmas period, as Director Rita Gupta explains.

The Sun newspaper says that:

“National Divorce Day is the first working Monday of the new year when legal firms see a surge in enquiries from couples seeking a divorce.”

This year, the first Monday of January was a Bank Holiday. So, in theory, our phones should have been ringing all day on Tuesday 2nd January 2024 with enquiries from couples desperate to separate asap.

They didn’t, and for one very good reason: divorce is not a decision to be taken lightly. It is not a simple New Year resolution, like joining a gym. The decision to separate will profoundly affect all aspects of your life, your partner’s life, and the lives of your children.

 

An unwanted present

The Christmas holiday period can be the catalyst for your decision to separate, especially if your relationship was already fracturing. The pressure-cooker atmosphere of yet another wet festive holiday season, the cost of living crisis, excess alcohol and unusually prolonged periods spent with your partner may push you both to realise that your relationship has gone beyond repair. In addition, there may be things said or done that confirm that you do need to separate, for your own happiness and that of your family.

As an article in Cosmopolitan suggests:

"Contrasting expectations play a part – one person may want to put their feet up at Christmas, while their partner may be expecting them to help out more. Then there’s in-laws, Christmas parties, dealing with children - it can really be a difficult time."

 

"One size fits all" divorce?

There is no such thing as a "standard" divorce. Every person, every family, every relationship is different. That's why at LGFL we adopt a holistic approach to divorce that tailors everything to you and your circumstances, taking into consideration all aspects of your relationship and family. As a result, we will advise you on what is required specific to your needs and your circumstances.

Our highly personalised service is the very opposite of "cookie cutter" online divorce sites, as we work with you to achieve the best outcome possible. If we can avoid going to court, we will. If not, we will "fight your corner" with determination and professionalism, and transparent billing from start to finish.

 

Abusive relationships

Sadly, the “festive” season can also accelerate the progress of abusive relationships. If you are a victim of any form of abuse - physical, coercive control, emotional, psychological - you need to seek help and take immediate action. Remove yourself and your children to safety if possible, and call the police. (See our recent article on domestic abuse at Christmas for other sources of help.)

Not all abusive relationships present an immediate physical danger, but they are not less damaging. I discussed the issue of children caught in the emotional crossfire on BBC Radio Berkshire:

“I advise people to put their children first and think about what they would be exposed to in the household at this period if there's conflict. It's very emotionally damaging for children to see parental conflict.”

If you need to talk to someone about your abusive relationship, download our list of domestic abuse organisations that can support you and keep you safe. Then call us for an appointment to discuss your situation, and receive empathetic, pragmatic legal advice on how to proceed.

 

Festive triggers

On BBC Radio Berkshire, I also discussed some of the other separation triggers that the festive season can bring to the surface.

1. The fantasy family Christmas

From the adverts on TV to social media posts, it can appear that everybody's having the perfect Christmas. Everyone is having more fun than you, is happier than you, and everyone’s relationship is better than yours. The result is that you can feel that you haven't had a great Christmas, or your Christmas wasn't good enough. Comparisons are not constructive or helpful.

2. Family dynamics

If you have an extended or blended family, the logistics of Christmas can be fraught with issues. Your partner may think that you are siding with your family against them. You may have highly critical in-laws, and your partner may feel they are not being supported, and therefore divided between their close family and you as their partner. Whilst these tensions tend to ease once the kids go back to school and we return to work again, the hurt and damage done by ill-advised words and choices may continue to simmer.

3. Think before you act

It is very tempting to go online to find out the experiences of others of Divorce Day. I always discourage this. Family law is very case specific, and every set of circumstances is different. You need to know what your rights are, including the ramifications of moving out of the family house, sometimes in anger. I always advise couples to step back, think about it, and take legal advice.

4. Try counselling

So often I find that couples simply don’t talk to each other about what is at the heart of their breakup. This year the cost-of-living crises will no doubt be at the forefront in many divorce cases, but many other factors can cause fractures, from working hours to co-parenting issues. Marriage counselling through an organisation such as Relate can bring partners together to discuss issues, and you may discover that you actually agree on much more than it appears.

5. No deadlines

For most of December, we put ourselves through tremendous stress in terms of timings. Just like getting all the elements of Christmas lunch on the table at the same time, the pressure of time constraints can leave us tired, emotional and unable to plan much beyond Boxing Day. January give us the time to breath, look at our situation, and think about ways forward.

6. Divorce takes time

It is important to remember, too, that the legal divorce process takes time. The no-fault divorce process takes at least six months to complete, and you need time, energy (and a good family lawyer) to ensure you achieve the best outcome for you and your family. Just as there is no such thing as Divorce Day, there is also no such thing as a “quickie” divorce.

7. Have a plan

Society quickly moves on in the new year. The TV adverts shift from 100 new things to eat to how to lose weight, or buy a new sofa. Children return to school, some to important exams, and the shops start to fill with Valentine’s Day cards and new chocolate products for Easter. Time marches on relentlessly as the daylight hours gradually lengthen.

It’s all too easy to let that resolve to separate slip not because the situation has changed (let alone improved), but because life simply gets in the way. If the Christmas period showed you that your relationship has run its course, the best time to act is now. Moving forward with your divorce will give you a fresh start, rather than still feeling trapped and stressed into the new year.

 

Act now with LGFL

Call us to make an appointment, so you can discuss with an experienced family lawyer what’s involved in divorce and separation, including timescales and the impact on your future family life.

At LGFL, we offer a reduced fee 1-hour consultation to discuss your unique situation. You can discuss your circumstances and concerns with one of our Directors in a completely confidential 60-minute session, and receive advice on ways forward.

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