There Is No Such Thing As Divorce Day

Scanning through Twitter quickly shows family law solicitors showing their annoyance at the term ‘Divorce Day’.

Divorce Day has been coined by the media as the first working day back after Christmas where, supposedly, solicitors will see a rise in divorce appointments and applications land on their desk.

Apparently, Christmas is the breaking point for many couples, so as quickly as possible, they are contacting their solicitors the minute they return to work.

The hashtag #thereisnosuchthingasdivorceday has been adopted by many to fight the catchy marketing phrase and many are speaking up against the hype of the day and calling for other solicitors to not comment to news outlets on the issue.

Solicitors are even using social media to advise clients to ignore articles regarding the day.

So where exactly has this myth come from?

It is true that there is an increase of searches online for ‘divorce’ during January and enquiries do also increase. However, the thought that a client will;

a, be able to phone a firm and get an appointment that day, and;

b, have an appointment that leads to a petition being sent that day,

Is quite frankly absurd.

Solicitors are not sat waiting by the phone the first Monday back in January, with their diary clear for potential clients. Nor would a petition be drafted and sent that day.

As Jo Edwards eloquently put in her blog:

 “Jurisdiction race considerations aside, that never happens. What of the need to prepare the petition, get the marriage certificate and (so we don’t breach the Resolution Code of Practice) share a draft with the other spouse first? The reality is that we’d trigger a flood of complaints (rightly) about breach of the Code, not to mention a raft of defended divorces and (even if undefended) unhappy, protracted discussions about money and children aspects if we behaved in that bull-in-a-china-shop way.”

As also pointed out by Jo, the Family Court Quarterly statistics disprove the fact that more divorce petitions are issued in January. In 2018 the quarter with the most petitions issued was April to June, with petitions issued from January to March actually being the lowest. In 2019 (we are still to receive the statistics from Q4) it was the period between July and September that had the most petitions issued.

There is undoubtedly a rise of enquiries in January, but many solicitors should be using this time to advise clients about how to separate amicably and sensibly rather than jump on to the media band wagon, praying on couples who have had a difficult holiday season.

Many of us will know the stressful build up to Christmas, the extra expense and if you have children, the increase in alcohol consumption, the excitement of Christmas Day followed by the time spent arguing over toys whilst still riding a sugar high. The days between Boxing Day and the first day of school, can at times seem twice as long and have parents snapping at each other in frustration. By the time that day comes, it is not difficult to see how relationships feel broken. With social media spouting that it is a ‘New Year, New You’, coupled with news that this day, more couples file for divorce, could it be encouraging couples in brittle relationships to throw in the towel?

Instead, solicitors should be actively advising clients to seek help in settling differences or at least spend time discussing their options rather than jumping straight into divorce proceedings.

Laura Naser of Pennington Maches Cooper is a great believer that clients should be well informed of their rights and the realities of divorce, meaning they have the strength of knowledge before they do make their final decision.

“The key to a more amicable separation is information. The earlier you can set your expectations reasonably for appropriate arrangements for your children, your financial separation and any necessary formalities from the outset, the better.

“Information is power. It will enable you to approach discussions with reason and confidence, if you add in some kindness then you are on the right track.”

Speaking directly to Today’s Family Lawyer, Laura told us, that rather than January being the time couples make the decision to file for divorce, it is that

“solicitors are advising their clients of their options, and it’s with advice and with conscious planning that January is chosen as a time to make relationship changes.”

When children are also involved in a divorce, there should be even more of an effort for couples to co-operate and aim for a ‘good divorce’. The client should be reminded often that they should be considering the best interests of the children.

There are of course couples that do put their children above themselves. Over 20 million parents that would have separated, instead stay together because of their children. Of course, if there are good reasons for couples to not be together, even for the sake of their children, the right information and guidance should be provided to them.

Instead of news outlets portraying that it is normal for couples to jump ship in January and file for divorce, implying that solicitors are benefiting from the increase in numbers of unhappy couples, they should be promoting the fact that divorce rates are at their lowest since 1973. They should praise the work that solicitors do to encourage communication between couples and highlight the thousands of solicitors who follow the Resolution Code of Conduct.

What is your view on ‘Divorce Day’, is it a media construct preying on the post-Christmas and January blues, or have you seen a marked increase in applications for divorce the first week back?

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