Today is referred to as "Divorce Day", said to be when more couples consider breaking up than at any other time of the year. But is this really the case, or an attempted trivialisation of a decision-making process that is almost always painful and seriously deliberated over for many months, if not years?
Much of the media coverage of the so-called Divorce Day suggests that parties to a marriage, faced with relentless depictions of happy Christmas families, and under significant pressure to have the perfect Christmas, decide that they cannot take any more. Social media is blamed for causing people to believe that their own lives and marriages fail to meet the grade, when compared to the glossy, idealised lives of others.
Is there really such thing as "Divorce Day"? There has been significant coverage of the fact that there were 13 online divorce applications made on Christmas Day 2018 and 455 between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day. In fact, there were 23,000 applications in total since May 2018- i.e. an average of slightly over 90 per day. Far from there being a surge of online applications over the Christmas period, there were markedly fewer than average.
Relationship breakdown is rarely as simple as somebody making a New Year's resolution to split from their partner. For some couples Christmas is not so much the last straw as their last attempt to keep the marriage alive. Many do not want their family (particularly their children) to go through Christmas in the midst of a breakup and so try to have one last Christmas together, often in the hope that the festive period will help things improve. Reasons for splitting up tend to be as diverse as marriages themselves. Suggesting that the "last straw" is down to an overcooked turkey or less than perfect gifts risks patronising couples who are reaching a milestone in the painful process of separation.
No matter what the reason for relationship breakdown, parties should be wary of reports of "quickie divorces" – whilst the divorce process itself may be relatively straightforward (and it is hoped that it will be less acrimonious following proposals to end the current system of conduct-based divorce), if a financial settlement needs to be reached or if children are involved, the issues can be much more complicated and may take many months to resolve. Many couples face significant financial pressure when attempting to fund two households with resources that previously only paid for one. Where there are children, parents need to be ready to work together, both immediately to minimise disruption and upset to their children and in the longer term, to ensure that their welfare is best served by both parents.
Those whose marriage might still be repaired should take a deep breath and consider speaking to a counsellor and perhaps a family therapist before picking up the phone to a solicitor. For couples whose marriage is truly at an end, mediation and therapy still have an important role to play in minimising disputes and helping to achieve a result that allows the whole family to move on in as constructive manner as possible. Whatever decision is eventually taken as to a couple's future, it is unlikely to be influenced by suggestions as to whether one day is more "popular" than another.