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3 January 2017

Is “divorce day” a myth?

Every year, at the beginning of January, the media headlines regurgitate the same report that it is the "peak time of year" for divorce and the subject receives a huge amount of media coverage. Emma Alfieri from our family team reports.

A number of dates are often cited as being the most popular date on which to bring a divorce, with some media reports even going so far as to refer to the first Monday in January as “divorce day”. In our experience, “divorce day” is a myth.

Whilst newspaper reports suggest that family tensions have run so high over Christmas that couples immediately contact their divorce lawyer on the first Monday in January, our data over the past few years suggests this is not the case.   As a general rule, any new clients that make contact with us at this time of year have been facing difficulties within their relationship for some time.   We find that at the start of a new year, some clients take the time to reflect and do take the decision to finally separate, however we find that often client’s wait a few weeks or even months before contacting us for advice.

For couples facing separation it can be hard to know where to start in such a strange and emotionally challenging process and, therefore, below are 10 considerations when faced with separation:

1.  Get legal advice at an early stage

Even if you do not intend to formally instruct a solicitor it is always advisable to have an initial chat with a specialist Family lawyer regarding the way forward.  This ensures that you know your legal position and your rights before proceeding.

2.  Don’t panic

Be cautious about making hasty decisions as you could make wrong decisions. For example: moving out of the property without seeking legal advice about your position first.

3.  Don’t rely on advice given by friends

There will always be a friend or colleague who is keen to offer you their advice.  The thing to remember is that every divorce is different due to the individual circumstances.  Therefore, the likely outcomes are different and one can rarely rely on advice given by people by their own experience.

4.  Don’t assume

Many people make assumptions without taking legal advice.  However, there are so many myths associated with divorce and separation and therefore assume nothing.

5.  Try and remain amicable

Try and have a discussion with your spouse about the way forward.  The days of parties going to Court for a Judge to make a decision in respect of financial matters are becoming infrequent.  The ethos now is to try and deal with things in an amicable way. This also has the effect of minimising costs for both parties as lawyers costs in dealing with matters will be lower.

6.  Get organised regarding your finances

We are often amazed at the number of clients who seek advice and do not know their own financial situation.  Ensure you know about what bank accounts and debts are held in joint names and be aware of the level of joint debt, to include credit cards and mortgages.  It is always wise to know and be in control of your own financial situation.

7.  Focus on the best interests of the children

If you have children, there is no need to involve them just because you and your spouse are not getting along.  Always discuss the situation out of earshot of the children and avoid making the children feel that they have to take sides. Focus on the children’s best interests.

8.  Be realistic

Be realistic in your expectations – whatever agreement is reached has to be workable and, therefore, do not set your expectations too high.  Ultimately, the matrimonial finances are going to be divided somehow and both parties’ future housing needs will need to be met.

9.  Consider using a counsellor

Divorce and separation can be a very stressful time and there are many counsellors who are able to offer support.  Discussing purely emotional matters with your lawyer is not the best use of your funds.  By employing an expert counsellor this can work out much more cost-effective in the long run.

10.  Do not comment about your spouse on social networking sites

Commenting about your spouse on a social networking site will only antagonise the situation further and is not advisable, whatever they may have done.  Sometimes it is appropriate for us to advise clients to temporarily close such accounts, until matters are concluded, to avoid the temptation to post inappropriate content.

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