If you are unsure what Divorce Day is, it is the first working Monday of every year.  It has earned this unattractive sobriquet because, historically, it is the day that brings family lawyers the highest volume of new divorce enquiries.

Although the average length of a marriage is going up and the overall number of divorces is going down, 42% per cent of marriages in the UK are still ending in divorce.  The first month of the year is the most popular for initiating a divorce and the first Monday of the month accounts for an unproportional number of cases being logged.

It is thought that this spike in divorce enquiries occurs because a couple’s problems will have been exacerbated over the Christmas holidays.  Spending more time together – often with the added pressure of extended family members being present – coupled with financial worries can bring longer term relationship problems to a head. 

Sometimes it is simply the reality of settling back into ‘normal life’ after the holidays that leads some married couples to realise that they have only stayed together to keep the family happy over Christmas.

The current economic crisis has only worsened the situation for many.  In addition to having to negotiate higher prices and interest and energy rate increases, a higher number of couples are having to deal with job losses.  The increase in concerns over our worsening mental health has also left many experts worried that 2024’s Divorce Day could be even worse than previous years.

Why do couples choose to separate?

While not all divorces are reactions to something specific and can simply be the result of an extended period of separation, there are five reasons that couples divorce:

  1. Unreasonable behaviour, e.g. domestic abuse, a lack of emotional support or substance abuse.
  • Adultery, although interestingly same sex couples cannot use this as grounds for divorce.
  • Desertion (without it being agreed by the other party) for more than two years in the past two-and-a-half years.
  • Being separated for two to five years even if you have lived in the same house but have slept and eat separately.  This will require your partner’s agreement.
  • Being separated for five or more years.  This does not require partner’s consent.

Even if you have been affected by any of these issues, there are other options open to you before you pursue a divorce.

You could legally separate.  You and your partner would agree to live as separate people leading separate lives.  You would need to have a legal separation agreement drawn up to deal with your finances and other important living arrangements.

You could stay married but separate informally.  This affords you both valuable thinking time, but you must be aware it will not give you any security when it comes to finances, property, or other assets unless you have a pre-nuptial agreement in place.

How can you start planning if you think Divorce Day will affect you?

Even if divorce is imminent or inevitable, many people will put things to one side to give their family an enjoyable Christmas.  However, if you are planning to divorce after Christmas, the process will almost certainly run more smoothly if you begin your planning as soon as possible.

We would suggest this process starts with you and your partner trying to agree on as many aspects of the divorce as you can.  While financial and child arrangements will be agreed during the divorce process, it will be quicker and more comfortable if these negotiations have a start point.

The aspects you will need to agree on will of course be reliant on your family, your situation, and your assets.  However, in our experience, the following should be addressed:

  • Who will maintain custody of the children?
  • Will one party need to pay the other child maintenance and at what level (approximately) should maintenance be set?
  • What are each party’s bills and expenditure and how will they be covered following the divorce?
  • What will happen with the family home?  Will one party continue to live in it after the divorce (usually the party who will maintain custody of the children) or will it be sold?
  • If the family home is to be sold, how will the proceeds be divided?
  • How will any outstanding joint debts be settled or divided?
  • How will any jointly held assets and investments (i.e. shares, savings and pensions) be divided?
  • How will items purchased jointly (e.g. cars, furniture, art, jewellery, or other valuables) be split?

If you are concerned you will be impacted by Divorce Day or into a conversation regarding a possible divorce or separation during the early part of next year, please contact our experienced Family Law team today.

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