07 Dec 2020

Family & Matrimonial

Will we see the usual annual spike in divorce rates after a Covid Christmas?

Divorce lawyers usually see a sharp spike in enquiries after Christmas, making January the most common time of the year for couples to consider splitting up. But will the strange circumstances that we have found ourselves in this year bring an end to this not-so-festive annual tradition? Or will it make it even more acute?

Our head of family law, Kate Thomas, gives her view.

“It’s a sad fact that the first working week back after the Christmas break is usually a very busy one for us. We tend to get a lot of calls from couples who have found it hard to spend so much time together over the holidays – which can be a very stressful time anyway – and unfortunately realise that, for a variety of reasons, their marriage is no longer working.

“Relationship charity Relate says it usually receives a peak of calls in January as tensions come to a head over Christmas and families are pushed to boiling point. Internet searches about divorce on the first Monday back to work are also higher than any other day.

“For some clients, the stress of trying to create the perfect Christmas which then doesn’t live up to their expectations, can be a contributing factor, plus the added strain of the extended family coming to stay. For others, it’s the money worries that can rear their heads after the festive over-spend. But for many, we find that in that downtime between Christmas and New Year, with none of the usual distractions of work, friends, school and social engagements, many couples find themselves arguing constantly and questioning whether they actually want to spend their future together.

“Although it may be sad, this is not really surprising. After any period of intense time with each other, couples in rocky relationships can start to wonder if they still belong together. Anxieties come up and people have more time than usual to think and evaluate. More often than not, individuals will come out of those periods wanting to work things out but if their partner has different views, this can lead to arguments, often very serious ones.

“Given the circumstances we have found ourselves in since the Covid pandemic began, however, I wonder whether this year we will experience the usual spike in divorce enquiries that we see early in the New Year.

“There have clearly been all sorts of other stresses and strains on couples this year, unlike anything we have experienced previously. In recent months we have certainly seen a sharp increase in divorce instructions, from couples who have been forced to spend 24 hours a day together with very few distractions, who’ve had to face personal or financial loss and who’ve struggled to work through their anxieties together. For their marriages, this crisis been the final straw.

“This Christmas though, given that most couples will have spent the best part of the last nine months together, it may be that the festive period turns out to be less intense than it has been in previous years.

“Usually, the run-up to Christmas is extremely busy and stressful so tensions then boil over when we actually stop and have time to reflect. However, over the last year, many families have had to adapt their behaviours and find new techniques to ensure they are giving each other space as well as spending quality time together so maybe the usual tensions felt at Christmas time won’t be as evident.

“There is also the added stress this year of having to decide which family members – if any – to bubble up with. For some couples this is causing additional tension as many are having to choose to spend Christmas with one side of the family over another after not having seen relatives for many months. Lots of families are choosing to spend Christmas alone to avoid the risk of catching spreading the virus but after nine months of worry and uncertainty, the prospect of spending the festive period alone together without the usual wider celebrations with extended family and friends, the holidays may unfortunately be the final push that breaks those marriages that are already on shaky ground.

“We know how stressful and emotionally draining divorce can be. If your marriage is breaking down, our expert and friendly family law team can advise you on all aspects of divorce and will help to minimise the stress and upset.”

 

For a confidential discussion about your situation, please contact Kate Thomas on 01633 760678 or email thomaska@hevans.com

 

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