Legal advice: Why do divorce rates spike in January?

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January is widely acknowledged to be one of the most depressing months of the year. Following the Christmas festivities, we’re faced with the back-to-work slump, cold, gloomy days and what feels like a long wait until spring.

The third Monday of January is even known as ‘Blue Monday’, and is considered to be the most depressing day of the entire year.

But did you know that January has also been dubbed as ‘Divorce Month’, with anecdotal evidence from solicitors across the country suggesting that divorce rates typically spike during the first 31 days of each year?

But is this true and – if it is – why would this be?

New Year – the ultimate time for divorce?

A BBC article published in January 2023 on this topic cited evidence from various law firms and the Welsh arm of relationship counselling charity Relate, all of whom stated that they had seen a surge in enquiries that month.

On 3 January 2023 alone (the first Monday in January, colloquially known as ‘Divorce Day’ in some legal circles), Relate said it received 50 enquiries for support compared with eight or nine per day in December 2022.

Indeed, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics for 2023 appear to bear this out. We can see that in the first quarter of the year, 28,865 divorce applications were filed compared with 24,624 in the second quarter.

This means that in 2023, there were 16% more divorce applications between January and March than there were between April and June.

Of course, it’s difficult to get a real grasp on the numbers because so much of the evidence we hear is anecdotal, but it does seem to be widely accepted that the New Year sees many more couples turning their thoughts to separation and a fresh start.

And it’s certainly something that our Family Law team experiences every year at Woodfines Solicitors.

Why January?

It is believed that there are several reasons for the January spike in divorce enquiries:

  • The stress of Christmas: Christmas is supposedly ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ – but for unhappily married couples, it can also be highly stressful. Locked up in the house together during the festive season and putting on a brave face for friends, family and the children can really pile the pressure on and the whole situation can act as a catalyst for couples to realise that they can’t continue on in their relationship.
  • …and the financial fallout: For many families, Christmas also piles on the financial pressure, with the average Briton expected to spend over £600 on Christmas presents this year. And that’s without mentioning increased spending on food, alcohol and festive socialising. Money worries can put a massive strain on relationships, so it’s unsurprising that the cracks might start to show in January.

The holidays are sacred

In the UK, there is a huge amount of pressure to enjoy Christmastime, which means that nobody wants to upset the applecart and ‘spoil things’ for everyone during December. The prevailing attitude seems to be one of ‘waiting it out’ until the festivities are over – hence a spike in enquiries during January.

  • New Year, new you: The New Year is a time of new resolutions, new leaf-turning and fresh starts. As our thoughts turn to what we want to change about our lives and achieve in the future, it is unsurprising that some people will be thinking about their marriage and whether they want to spend another year unhappily married to their spouse.
  • Feeling blue: As we mentioned earlier, January is widely considered to be one of the most depressing months of the year. According to the latest release from the Office for National Statistics, around one in five UK adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021, rising to 35% amongst those who were struggling for money.

When things feel hopeless, it can be more difficult to see any positives in a relationship and easier to feel negative about the future, which may be why solicitors tend to see more divorce enquiries in January.

Here to support you

No matter when in the year it happens, coming to the realisation that you are unhappy in your marriage is really hard.

During such times, being able to talk to somebody who understands your situation and who can offer some practical, sound advice from a place of real knowledge can feel like a godsend.

If you are in this position and would like to speak to a sympathetic, friendly member of our Family Law team, do feel free to get in touch on 0344 967 2505 or email us at familylaw@woodfines.co.uk and we’ll be happy to talk things through with you.

by Eloise Wilson
paid partnership with Woodfines Solicitors