Divorce rates tend to spike after the festive season, and professionals are encouraging couples with rocky relationships to focus on talking to each other in the run up to Christmas.
Many attributes the stress and financial burden of trying to create the perfect Christmas as the reason why many married couples head for divorce in January, with family lawyers and support organisations receiving more enquiries in the New Year than at any other time. The Christmas period combined with a particularly difficult year with the Covid-19 pandemic predicts January 2022 to be a hard month for couples.
However, couples are staying married for longer before they divorce – 12.4 years for those divorcing in 2018, up from 9.6 years in 1996. Analysts suggest that these figures are due in the main to marriages taking place later in life and often following a period of living together, which can act as a pre-marriage trial. The figures also reflect that there are far fewer marriages taking place overall, at nearly half the number of 1974.
Unreasonable behaviour remains the most common reason for divorce. In opposite-sex couples, 51.9% of wives and 36.8% of husbands petitioned on this ground. There has also been a significant rise in women initiating divorces.
At present, the only grounds for divorce are that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, the rarely used ground of desertion, two years of separation where both parties agree to divorce, or five years’ separation in which case the consent of the other party is not required. In April 2022, ‘no-fault divorce’ will come into force allowing couples to divorce without blame.
Said family law expert Kira Arden of Norfolk-based solicitors Spire Solicitors LLP. “We need to support couples in navigating the process and help them avoid a recriminatory approach, which is even more important when children are involved.”
This echoes guidance from support organisations such as the NSPCC or Resolution who encourage parents to talk to their children and prepare the ground for separation and divorce, by avoiding accusations and blaming or asking children to take sides.
She added: “Talking things through is always best, and you don’t have to do it all on your own, as someone can sit in to help focus those conversations on positive negotiation, whether it’s just between the two of you, or as a family with your children.
“It doesn’t have to be a professional at this stage, although it’s a good idea to get some expert input before you make any agreement over asset sharing or child arrangements, to be sure it is fair for both sides.
“Approaching separation on the basis of collaboration and mediation may ease things and make this very difficult phase of life just a little less tough. When a marriage is failing, positive communication between parents is perhaps the best Christmas present the children can be given.”
If you are considering commencing divorce proceedings and need some advice, or would like to discuss anything in this article, please contact our Family team on 01603 677077.