The first Monday back at work after Christmas has been rather depressingly dubbed as ‘Divorce Day’. During the first week of January, solicitors receive as many as twice the normal amount of divorce enquiries – a trend echoed by social media platforms such as Facebook, which report a significant increase in break ups in the run-up to Christmas and the new year.
The Christmas holidays are often a difficult time for relationships which are already under strain as couples spend more time together, entertaining or visiting family, while trying to live up to the ideal of a fairy tale festive period. Financial worries can make things even more stressful with the combined pressure of paying for presents, food and drink. There’s an overwhelming expectation for perfection at Christmas – whether it’s meeting the expectations of family members or trying to provide a magical experience for your children – and when there are cracks in a relationship, the added pressure can make things worse. With Christmas over with, the new year is a time for making resolutions, offering a chance for a fresh start, leading unhappy couples to the decision to split.
So why do couples put themselves through the stress of the holidays and delay such a major life decision until the new year? Professor of psychology Dr Joseph Ferrari suggests that our habits of procrastination are ‘heavily related to social esteem protection’ – we create the illusion that everything is okay because we are worried about how other people might view us, or try to protect other people from disruption and upset. Another element involved in the new year surge in divorce enquiries is the concept of ‘cultural procrastination’, where we make ourselves feel better about making big decisions by putting them on hold until a moment of significance, like the beginning of a new year, or once a certain prerequisite has been achieved.
However, despite the large increase in divorce enquiries during the this particular week, the number of couples who go on to submit divorce petitions or complete the separation process is generally lower than usual, suggesting that the action of making a decision may be more important than the actual outcome. Our advice for anyone considering splitting up over the new year is to take some extra time to consider your situation – talk to your partner and let the stresses of Christmas cool off before you make any major decisions. Sometimes the simple act of deciding to make a change can help couples to seek family counselling and work on their relationships instead than opting for divorce. And for those who are certain about wanting to separate, taking time to research your options will help you to negotiate your dispute resolution in the best way possible. Mediation, collaborative family law and arbitration offer less combative methods of separation, enabling you to complete the process out of court with much less stress.
If you need help with making an important decision about your relationship this January, get in touch with our friendly, understanding family lawyers at Frances Lindsay & Co. We can take the weight off your shoulders and guide you through your options for separation.
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