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The January divorce spike?

So welcome to January. As we write this, the wind is whipping up the old autumn leaves down on Cambridge Place and the rain is lashing the windows. Cambridge is a very beautiful city, but this is not one of its better days; January is not one of any British city’s better months. It seems to be approaching the new year under a cloud; we understand that many of our clients and potential clients will be doing the same, filled with anxiety and trepidation about the year ahead.

It doesn’t help that every new year the media whips up the usual storm to accompany the windy greyness outside: first working day in January is ‘divorce day’, they say (see here or here for example). Couples rush to divorce after Christmas and New Year Marital Nightmares, scream the papers: couples who cannot bear 10 days off work in the same house finally choose to divorce at the beginning of January. We’re often asked: is it true?

Like all these things, there are elements of truth in the story if you look hard enough. There is usually a bit of a new client spike in January. Christmas is a family occasion with choices to be made at every turn: choices about how much money to spend, how much of the domestic work each party does and about the presence or absence of wider family members. These three things – finance, housework, in-laws – are noted flashpoints even for generally happy couples. Some couples do find it difficult to endure the festive season when their relationship is already foundering, but this is not the only reason people choose January to contact a family law solicitor or mediator about the technicalities of a separation.

Often, a separation is something that couples have been discussing between themselves for quite a while. They may have gone through relationship or separation counselling, or may have already physically separated without the assistance of professionals some time ago, but have chosen to leave the formal or legal aspects of the separation until “the new year”. The arrival of a different digit on the end of the calendar is a potent symbol of change and of a new start, new opportunities, new possibilities: traditions of resolutions exist in almost every society at the start of the new year. It seems psychologically easier to draw a line in the sand at the end of the old year and try to be positive about the future at the beginning of the new one, whatever adversity one might face.

This psychological effect may go some way to explaining the so-called January divorce spike – for many people, it’s the culmination of months or years of work and careful assessment and decision-making, rather than a specific reaction to the Christmas chaos. But it’s important to realise that seeing a solicitor or a mediator doesn’t set you on an unalterable course to divorce. We see people at all stages of their relationships: before, during and at the end of marriages, civil partnerships, cohabitations or even parenthood. We’re happy just to spend some time explaining the options, discussing ways forward and who might be best placed to help you achieve your goals, whether that might be a reconciliation, an elegant disengagement, or an agreement to review the situation in the future. Whatever your circumstances, we will do our best to support you and advise you in the most practical and cost-effective way.

Our advice is to ignore what the papers say and come and tell us your own story. From all of us at Cambridge Family Law Practice, we wish you a happy and positive new year.


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