"National Divorce Day" 2020 - So how was it for you?
- AuthorMuntech Kaur
The phrase "Divorce Day", traditionally the first Monday in January, is coined by the media rather than family lawyers. Many who practice family law, including family lawyers who are Members of Resolution, are likely to agree. So, it is interesting to note that the media says it is “lawyer dubbed”.
It is bemusing to read some of the newspaper headlines with a few top online searches reading:
- “Divorce Day 2020: What is the UK divorce rate and why are couples more likely to split in January” - Evening Standard
- “What is Divorce Day and when is it?” - Independent
- “Lawyers get ready for ‘Divorce Day’” - Financial Times
Even Yahoo has a headline reading “What is Divorce Day and why is it a thing?” with the opening of its article being celebratory – “Happy Divorce Day everyone”. For those going through a marriage breakdown, or indeed any relationship breakdown, the day is far from “happy” and it is for most couples a step which is a difficult decision to make, irrespective of the length of their marriage or indeed whether or not it is the first Monday after Christmas and New Year.
By far, the best headline is that of The Sun newspaper - “When is National Divorce Day and what is it”. We seem to have leapt from “Divorce Day” to now it being referred to as “National Divorce Day”. This gives the impression that couples up and down the country are pounding on the doors of solicitors’ offices and jamming the telephone lines as soon as the clock strikes 9am on 6 January 2020. The reality is very different.
Whilst, there is some truth to there being more enquiries during the period of January for couples consulting family lawyers, it is nothing like the image of a stampede which the media appears to have painted.
That is not to say that no divorce petitions are being issued in January by the Divorce Centres. Let me share a real-time statistic. On 16 January 2020, the Liverpool Divorce Centre had issued 799 petitions. This is aside from the numbers which may have been issued by Bury St Edmunds and other Divorce Centres across England and Wales.
Even with this figure, I am not convinced that all couples and/or their family lawyers have only just submitted their petitions in January. Indeed, some of the 799 divorces are likely to have been contemplated much earlier than Divorce Day in January 2020. Some petitions may have been sent or submitted to the Divorce Centres in December 2019.
When listening to new client enquiries, it still surprises me (even after having worked in family law for 17 years), that the focus is on the “divorce”. For family lawyers, a “divorce” is simply a process bringing a marriage to a legal end. My observation to those who have such focus is to consider the process in a more holistic manner. Let’s look at the bigger picture.
In the breakdown of a marriage, there are usually issues relating to children, finances and/or both. Having made the decision to bring the marriage to an end, some couples have given little or indeed no thought to these issues. How will they manage financially once they have separated? What are the wishes and feelings of the children of the marriage? What practical child arrangements are to be agreed and how these are going to work?
Some points that may assist in shifting the focus from “I want a divorce” to looking at the bigger picture are as follows:
- Who is going to live in the family home?
- What are my immediate housing needs and that of any children to the marriage?
- Can I afford the existing mortgage on the family home?
- Can I afford the outgoings on the family home?
- Is there enough equity in the family home for us both to take our respective shares now?
- Do I need to consider downsizing to a more suitable and more financially manageable property?
- Where are the children going to live?
- Can a shared care arrangement for the children work?
- Do I need to increase or decrease my hours at work or find alternative employment?
- Will I have to share my pension?
- Can I seek a share of my spouse’s pension?
- How will the other assets in the marriage be divided?
- Who is going to be liable for any debts in the marriage?
The full list is, of course, a little more extensive than that!
My colleagues in the family law team at Birkett Long have written some guidance that you may find helpful when contemplating bringing your marriage to a legal end, see the links below:
So how was “National Divorce Day” for you?
The reality is that this is simply a media hype. When you have considered bringing a marriage to an end, allow yourself time to process this decision and, where possible, explore some of the questions which are detailed above. Do not be pressurised or lead into commencing a divorce simply because it is “Divorce Day”.
The family lawyers at Birkett Long are members of Resolution and are focused on finding the outcome which best suits you and your circumstances.
I am a family law solicitor based in our Basildon office and can be contacted on 01268 824938 or via email at email@example.com.