January Blues: Why Couples Divorce at the Start of the Year

Claire Small's picture
Authored by Claire Small
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 1:17pm

The start of this week – January 7th – is ominously dubbed D-day as it’s the most popular time of year for divorce lawyers and solicitors. After the giddy heights of the festive period, couples often wake up in the New Year unable to handle the headache of their marriages. Richard Scott, Head of Family Law at Howells Solicitors, has helped us pinpoint the reasons why couples go their separate ways in January:

Christmas Party Regrets

All the way back in 65AD, philosopher Seneca the Younger stated that “drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness” which, if you’re fond of a drink or five, certainly rings true. However, some people take these moments of madness too far, sacrificing the trust in their marriage in the process.

The combination of alcohol and festive cheer can lead some to start or re-ignite affairs. Adultery, particularly around the Christmas period, is a major reason for the increase in New Year divorces. More often than not, adultery is too much for most to stomach. Once trust is erased, so is the marriage:

“Adultery, more commonly known as an affair, is a common reason for divorce. A marriage is a promise to love and be faithful to a person for a lifetime, therefore either party [having relations] with another person can break down trust and often cannot be forgiven – whatever the reason behind the stray.”

“New Year, New Me”

Some people can take the New Year very seriously. It’s a common time for people to try and re-invent themselves or re-assess their lives; sadly, this can sometimes mean leaving your partner behind. Spending a lot of time together in the festive period can facilitate this sort of “fresh slate” thinking if things aren’t quite right. With the speed of managed divorces these days, people can make the first step to a “new, single me” relatively quickly, too.

Giving the Kids “One Last Christmas”

Some couples realise their marriage is over in the run-up to Christmas, but don’t want to spoil Christmas for their kids. As a result, couples work to give their kids “one last Christmas” as a family or, alternatively, give the marriage one last proper go. After the New Year, the figurative wheels of the marriage tend to fall off as reality sets in, leading to the sharp increase in divorce queries.

Unreasonable Behaviour and Alcohol

Alcohol use spikes around Christmas, with many of us drinking beyond our normal constraints. Alcohol is different for everyone, with some reacting positively and others, especially when they’ve had too much, reacting negatively. 45% of all divorces are for “unreasonable behaviour”, which comes in a variety of forms. If there already cracks or issues in the marriage, then alcohol can exacerbate these, culminating in a divorce:

“Unreasonable behaviour is the most cited reason for divorce as it covers a number of aspects. Essentially, it refers to either the husband or wife behaving so badly the other half of the couple can no longer stay married to them. This could include physical violence, verbal abuse, addiction or refusing to pay for the expenses related to the marital home.”

Financial Pressure

Christmas can leave a strain on our wallets with people spending an average of £500 more than they normally would in this period. If a family or couple is already in financial dire straits, then the festive period’s tendency to increase spending can send a household’s finances into disrepute.

Arguments about money tend to escalate quickly, so it comes as no surprise that this can act as a catalyst to end a marriage, especially if one party is more to blame than the other. As mentioned earlier, refusing or being unable to “pay for the expenses related to the marital home” is ample ground for a divorce. 

It’s no surprise that with faster court dates and the ability to have a quick divorce online has help convince people to make a difficult and important step in their lives.