Is January ‘Divorce Month’? – perhaps not…


It’s this time of year that every newspaper is full of headlines and stories about "Divorce Day" and claiming that January is the busiest time of year for divorce lawyers.

Couples who have gritted their teeth through Christmas, perhaps with their marriage already on the rocks or who have fallen out beyond repair with all the stress and strain of the season, are traditionally said to be beating down Divorce lawyers’ doors as soon as the festivities are over. But our Head of Family Law, Partner Emma Pearmaine, simply doesn’t think that’s the case.

"There is much in the press about the huge number of divorce petitions issued post-Christmas as people make New Year resolutions to sort out their family lives. It has never been my experience that this is true." says Emma.

"I do not experience a huge increase in new divorce instructions in January, but do notice a difference in the attitude of many of my clients. Some clients who previously struggled to reach conciliatory agreement often come to me in January and say "I’ve realised that this just needs to be sorted out as soon as possible" and so agree to take a conciliatory approach and try to negotiate the settlement as amicably as possible. Some opt for mediation, talking together to agree a sensible solution."

"It simply boils down to it with many clients that the New Year represents a time to resolve their dispute quickly and move on for the good of all the family."

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Emma stresses that the divorce process need not be complex or lengthy, especially if the couple have agreed terms: "It is not the Divorce process which causes delay - it is the behaviour of the parties which causes delay, in circumstances where arguments, dispute and failure to agree can really drag things out."

Emma handled one client’s case where the man and his wife agreed the financial terms of their divorce around the kitchen table. Having both taken legal advice, their no-nonsense approach secured them a divorce in just 12 weeks. And yet in another case with similar issues over money and children the parties can’t agree terms and the divorce process is still ongoing after 14 months!

As Emma says: "In my view it is the mindset of the parties and the lawyers which makes the difference - and a conciliatory approach can only benefit the whole family, speed up the process and reduce the parties’ legal costs. Of course there is a time and a place for being very robust, but a fair and amicable settlement should almost always be the first approach."

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