By Alison Green, Head of Family & Relationship Department at Mackrell.Solicitors
For many years now the UK media has set a defined date in the diary when ‘most people choose to get a divorce.’
Typically, this is the first Monday of the new year but often expanded to the whole month of January. This period is anecdotally the busiest time of the year for family lawyers.
Despite these claims, however, the official data from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) doesn’t seem to hold up.
For example, in the last year, the number of divorce petitions filed in the first quarter of 2022 (January to March) was 30,154.
In the subsequent quarter (April to June 2022) divorce applications increased to 33,566. Admittedly, this period did capture some of the applications launched under the new ‘no-fault’ divorce rules, but still, this quarter was busier when it came to the launch of new divorces.
If we were going to suggest that the number of divorces was down in the first quarter due to people waiting for this change then this assumption would also be inaccurate, as the number of divorces launched between January and March 2022 was up 30 per cent on the final quarter of 2021, and only down two per cent on the previous year.
Unfortunately, this quarterly summary provided by the MoJ doesn’t give a more granular view of the monthly distribution of petitions.
Separate reports and research from the MoJ in 2021 indicated, however, that during the first quarter, March saw a higher number of divorces than January (22 per cent higher), and the day when the most petitions were launched was in September.
Why do people assume that divorce petitions rise in January?
There have been some big assumptions made about so called ‘Divorce Day’, which relate to the stress of the Christmas period and people’s reflections and plans for the new year.
Very few of these, however, are based on real data. While these periods certainly can be stressful and arguments and disagreements can be fueled by the strain of having a full house, dealing with in-laws and amplified by higher-than-average consumption of alcohol, there has been no real research conducted that link any of these events to an increase in divorce.
Instead, if we look at the historic MoJ data, spikes in divorces tend to happen more around the end and start of school terms, particularly after the long six weeks holidays in July and August.
Although traditionally seen as a time when families come together, enjoy time in each other’s company and bask in the summer sun, the data would suggest otherwise.
While there may be many assumptions that could be made about this period, not least the increased amount of time many of us spend together, the same conclusions could be drawn from the festive break.
These are just assumptions though and there isn’t sufficient official data that confirms the particular reasons for divorce and separation.
Labelling one month or another Divorce Day or Divorce Month, really serves very little purpose, especially for the families that are experiencing the challenges of separation and divorce.
What does the last year tell us about wider patterns of divorce?
The last 12 to 24 months have been an interesting period for divorce, not least because of the change to how divorces are launched, and the process involved in obtaining a Final Order brought in under the included in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.
It is clear that during 2021 there was a drop-off in the overall number of divorce petitions.
There is no clear data on why this was the case, but some experts have indicated that a combination of the challenges created by the pandemic and an anticipation of the new divorce rules could have contributed.
Moving into 2022, the number of divorces in Q1, as mentioned, was only down by two per cent on Q1 2021. This is a statistically insignificant change.
Following the introduction of the new ‘no-fault’ divorce system on 6 April 2022 England did experience a spike in applications. The number of divorces commenced in this period increased by 22 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2021.
This seems to have been a blip, as in the third quarter of 2022 divorce applications were only up by eight per cent when compared to the same quarter in 2021. Again, this rise isn’t that significant given the scale of change that has taken place.
As we enter a new year it will be interesting to see what patterns emerge as we see our first full year under the new divorce process and rules.
What is clear, however, is that the traditional idea of a divorce day or a month of divorce in January is not accurate or backed up by any official data.
While many may claim that divorce lawyers anecdotally receive a higher number of divorce applications at the start of each year, this is one myth that has been busted.
If you need advice on divorce or separation, Mackrell.Solicitors award-winning family and relationship team can offer advice, support and assistance.
To find out more about this firm’s services, please contact Alison Green by calling +44 (0) 20 7240 0521 or emailing email@example.com