January is traditionally associated with a divorce spike. The tabloids are full of it every year, making us even more blue than we already are.

The Government is currently trying to encourage couples to do DIY online divorce. Government statistics indicate that since April 2018, there have been 23,000 online divorce applications. 13 of these were filed on Christmas Day 2018. What is it about Christmas / New Year which causes a “spike” in the divorce rate?

When I was a trainee Solicitor, my Principal told me the following story. On the first day that his office re-opened after the Christmas break (this would have been 27 December in those days), an elderly lady was waiting on his doorstep at 9am. She asked to see my Principal, in connection with divorce. She said she had been married for 30 years. Out of curiosity, he asked what had driven her to consider divorce, firstly after such a long marriage, but also on the first available date after Christmas.

Her answer was this; on Christmas Day, the gift she received from her husband was a Cliff Richard album. Now, Cliff Richard in his many manifestations may not be everyone’s ideal Christmas gift, but is he really grounds for divorce? The aggrieved lady went on to explain that if, after 30 years of marriage, her husband had failed to appreciate that she did not like Cliff Richard, then her husband did not know her at all.

Now this is a sentiment that I am sure we can all relate to, and thus one can understand where the lady was coming from. So, on 25 December 2018, perhaps 13 other poor souls were gifted Cliff Richard albums, which caused the recipients to fire up the PC and apply for an online divorce. Sometimes the tipping point is much more than a simple vinyl disc. In the years since I completed my training, I have helped my clients petition for divorce for a vast array of reasons; some of which we could all identify with, but many unique to the couple concerned. A common denominator for the post-Christmas divorce spike does seem to be the fact that couples are spending more time with each other than would normally be the case. If there are already cracks in the relationship, those cracks will be exposed under the weight of extra time the couple spend together over the long Bank Holiday, and the usual pressures of a 21st century high- expectation and high- spending festive period. Add to this mix house-guests/relations who are only seen once a year (possibly with good reason), and you have a cocktail for stress. And then of course in January, the credit card bills come home to roost.

Although it is billed as the season of good cheer, walking round car parks and checkout queues and looking at frazzled couples, it can seem quite the opposite. When I was in HMV on Christmas Eve to buy some Christmas carols, I spotted a Cliff Richard CD. And no: I did not run the risk of buying it.


Elizabeth A Hodder

Solicitor and Collaborative Lawyer

Partner and Head of Gross & Co Family Department


Tel:  01284 763333

Email:  eah@gross.co.uk


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