04 Jan 2021
Family & Matrimonial
As divorce lawyers we usually brace ourselves for a sharp spike in enquiries after Christmas, as January is the most common time of the year for couples to consider splitting up. Today – the first Monday back after the Christmas holidays – is usually dubbed ‘Divorce Day’ because of the high levels of enquiries that come in after the festive break.
But with the highly unusual circumstances that we have all found ourselves in this year and further lockdown restrictions now in place, will this year be a different story?
It’s a sad fact that after Christmas we tend to get a lot of calls from couples who have found it hard to spend so much time together over the holidays and unfortunately realise that, for a variety of reasons, their marriage is no longer working.
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.”
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.
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.
However, given the circumstances we have found ourselves in since the pandemic began and the fact that we are now back in lockdown, I wonder whether today will bring the usual New Year spike in divorce enquiries.
There have clearly been all sorts of other stresses and strains on couples this year, unlike anything we have experienced previously. Over the summer months, when lockdown restrictions were eased, we did see a 40% increase in divorce instructions from the same period last year, from couples who had been forced to spend 24 hours a day together with very few distractions. Many had had to face personal or financial loss and had struggled to work through their anxieties together so for their marriages, this crisis was the final straw.
This Christmas though, given that most couples had spent the best part of the last nine months together, I think the festive period was rather less intense for many than it has been in previous years.
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 in many cases, the usual tensions felt at Christmas time were not as evident.
That said, there was also the added stress of having to decide whether to spend Christmas with family members or alone. For some couples, spending the festive period alone without the usual wider celebrations with extended family and friends may unfortunately have been the final push to break those marriages that were already on shaky ground.
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