The first Monday after 1 January has been labelled ‘Divorce Day’ by the media due to the influx of divorce enquiries family solicitors receive after the Christmas break.

The Christmas period is often a time of happiness and celebration however for some families the pressure and tension of Christmas can lead to relationship breakdown which in turn can see a spike in divorce enquiries in the new year.

Last year, the relationship support charity, Relate, reported that visits to their website increased by 84% in the first 3 working days of 2019 compared to the previous year.

Despite the increase in divorce enquiries in January, the decision to divorce is not taken lightly and the reason behind a divorce is often far more complex than the result of a tense and stressful Christmas. It is more likely that Christmas time highlights problems which were already present in a relationship and the prospects of the new year can provide a couple with the opportunity to reflect on these issues.

Under current legislation, in order to divorce a couple must show that their marriage has irretrievably broken down by providing one of five reasons – adultery, unreasonable behaviour, separation for 2 years with both parties’ consent, separation for 5 years or desertion. The office for National Statistics reported that “unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing in 2018, with 51.9% of wives and 36.8% of husbands petitioning on this ground; it was also the most common reason for same-sex couples divorcing”.

As we move into a new decade, 2020 may see a change in divorce law with the introduction of no fault divorce. It was confirmed in December that the Government intends to reintroduce the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill which will allow couples to divorce without the need to make allegations about the other spouse’s conduct or demonstrate a period of separation. Current divorce law is outdated and the introduction of no fault divorce legislation will help reduce conflict and allow families to focus on important issues such as children and finances. The Bill is in its early stages but there is hope for a less acrimonious divorce process in the future.

If you require assistance to start divorce proceedings or are currently going through a divorce and require legal advice, please contact Andrew Smith in our York office, Chris Burns or Sophie Arrowsmith in our Leeds office or Richard Buckley in our Sheffield office.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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