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Divorce Day: Fact or Fiction?

View profile for Caroline  Elliott
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The first working Monday of the year is known by many as ‘Divorce Day’ because legal practitioners often receive an influx of separation requests, caused by the stresses of Christmas, upon returning to work. Caroline Elliott, partner and family law specialist at top 150 firm Roythornes Solicitors, reveals whether this is true or just a myth that has been fooling many.

"The first working Monday of each year is dressed up as a big day in which new divorce proceedings are started, but, despite the hype, Divorce Day is not as it seems."

“It’s not uncommon for couples to put their separation issues on hold during December so that the festive period is less disturbed, whether that’s for themselves or for family and children. As clients call a truce on the legal side of their breakup, cases are pushed back – meaning the reality of Divorce Day, and the reason solicitors are busier at this time of year, can often be  because existing cases are picked back up."

“Yes, there will be new enquiries every January. However, enquiries of this nature come in all year round. Those that decide to move forward with a divorce will no doubt have been considering doing so for a while and will not have rushed into the decision. What we can say is that many enquiries that come in during January may have been influenced by the Christmas period, when couples tend to spend more time together – and they reach the end of their tether."

“Divorce Day has been a media event for almost as long as I can remember during my 30 years working in family law. While it has certainly attracted a lot more attention in recent years, I do not really think that the hype reflects the reality."

After The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) commenced in April last year, it has been easier to obtain a divorce because there is no longer the need to lay fault on the other party and individuals can dissolve their marriage independently. Though this has not changed the divorce rate ahead of Divorce Day 2023 according to Caroline.

Caroline continued: “While there was an uptick in new divorce applications following the change in the law, this was primarily due to people knowing the change was coming and waiting for the new simpler process."

“Family law specialists, like myself, will almost always be required during the divorce to help resolve the contentious elements of separation, such as children and finances. Although the new law provides some autonomy as clients can, if they wish, progress the actual divorce themselves, it appears that many people still prefer to continue using legal representation for this, instead of taking on another task for themselves during what is undoubtedly a difficult and often stressful time."

“Historically, legal support has been almost essential to complete the complex parts of a divorce so it’s not surprising that there has not yet been a major shift in thinking, and I don’t think that will really change. People will still seek help at a very difficult time in their lives and simplifying the dissolving of the marriage through no-fault divorce really only represents a small part of that process."

“No-fault divorces are still in their infancy but the new law seems to have made no real difference for the majority of cases which will still rely on legal representation to sort out children and money issues.”