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What is Divorce Day and why is it a thing?

Stock picture of a couple getting divorced, amid news today is Divorce Day. (Getty Images)
What is Divorce Day and when does it occur? (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

While many of us are dragging ourselves away from the cheese, leftover mince pies and Quality Street and into the first full working week of 2023, there’s another reason today isn’t the jolliest of days.

Hold onto your wedding rings, everyone, for today is apparently Divorce Day.

The first Monday back at work after the holiday season, or Divorce Day as it's become known by those in the legal profession, marks the day when lawyers reportedly see a spike in couples filing to end their marriages.

Happy New Year!

Law firm, Wright Hassall reports a huge increase in divorce enquiries on average in January, with searches for ‘divorce lawyer’ 36.08% higher in January 2021 than the 2021 average.

Meanwhile Google searches for ‘how to start divorce’ were 52.38% higher in January 2020 than the rest of the year's average.

While it might seem strange that so many people think about getting divorced at the same time, according to life coach Sara Davison, AKA The Divorce Coach who runs break-up recovery retreats, there are some reasons why this time of year can prompt relationship breakdowns.

Davison says that festive period pressures can reach a crescendo, in what she describes as a “switch flicking moment.”

“This is when something tips the balance and you decide you just can’t do this anymore. Enough is enough and you want out,” she explains.

“Unfortunately this is the case for many couples at this time of year and explains why the divorce rate often peaks in the new year.”

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Stock picture of a couple looking upset. Today marks Divorce Day. (Getty Images)
Today marks Divorce Day, when lawyers report a spike in the enquiries about getting divorced. (Getty Images)

Is Divorce Day really a thing?

While some experts have cast doubt over the existence of Divorce Day, according to Davison there are several reasons why the post-festive period can lead to relationship flare-ups – for a start spending prolonged periods with family over the festive period.

“If you have a solid relationship [spending time with family] can make it even stronger,” she explains.

“However, if the foundations of the relationship are rocky spending increased amounts of time together can increase the pressure and the cracks will start to show.”

The holidays can also place more scrutiny on the relationship without the distraction of our everyday schedules.

“Over Christmas the usual routine of work and school runs is disrupted," Davison continues. "We are no longer distracted by them and so we have more time to focus on the relationship and how it is going."

According to Davison, many people may actually have decided to break up well before Christmas, but made the decision to get through the festive period so as not to upset the family, especially if there are children involved, which could help explain why the new year prompts them to finally leave.

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Christmas festivities may also be a contributing factor to those already considering a split.

“It’s the season for parties and drinking and if your relationship is already on the rocks it can sadly be a trigger for infidelity,” Davison explains.

Financial pressures can also mount over Christmas, particularly in the midst of a cost of living crisis, which can inevitably cause arguments and tension for couples already feeling the strain.

On the flip side some experts believe money worries could actually reduce the number of couples looking to break up this new year, with some believing they can't actually afford to live apart.

“This year, Divorce Day may not see divorces rise as much as previous years, as couples wishing to separate face the stark reality of whether they can afford to divorce and live independently in the deepening cost of living crisis," explains Niamh McCarthy, partner at Stowe Family Law.

"Divorce enquiries are rising, with November 2022 our highest month on record for enquiries at Stowe, up 50% on 2021, and a staggering increase of 192% compared to pre-pandemic and cost of living crisis times (2019). However, many couples are deciding not to go ahead with a divorce in the current climate.

Over the past few months, I've spoken to many people asking about divorce, but who have been putting it off due to financial worries – most notably concerns about not being able to afford to live alone."

Recent research from Stowe Family Law, appears to back this theory with just under a third of respondents (30%) polled claiming they are staying in their relationship due to concerns about the cost of living crisis.

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New year, new you

Dennie Smith, creator of Traditional Dating Club believes new year, new life mentalities can also play a role in the rise in January divorce-seekers.

“Christmas and the New Year is often a time for reassessment of goals around all aspects of life and romance and relationships is one of them,” she explains.

“As people take time off, spend more time together and the daily grind is not present it can highlight problems in a relationship – these become amplified with rows occurring, sometimes over trivialities.

“People will therefore often think they cannot cope with another year of being in a toxic or bland relationship and will decide this is the year to make a change.

"Just as they might think the same of a boring job, or being stuck in a rut, or not fit. Change is in the air and a significant minority will actually take action.”

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For Jude Clay, 39, founder of Gluing Cheese the Christmas and New Year period was undoubtedly a catalyst for ending her seven-year marriage.

“The festive season and the beginning of a new year is such a reflective time for so many of us,” she explains.

“We take stock of our lives and the various aspects of that. This can intensify if Christmas has been difficult because of a problematic marriage.”

Though the festive holidays don't have to be the picture-perfect dream we're surrounded by for much of December, Clay says that any cracks or strains in a relationship can’t be ignored – or could become increasingly apparent – when under the glare of the Christmas lights.

“For me, it was just that,” she continues. “I knew that I wasn't happy and that things needed to change sooner rather than later.

“It wasn't fair on me, my now ex-husband or our young child to pretend that everything was OK when it definitely wasn't.

“My divorce became the ultimate New Year's Resolution and I didn't look back.”

Read more: 8 things you need to know if you live with your partner but aren't married

Experts are urging couples not to rush into a new year divorce. (Getty Images)
Experts are urging couples not to rush into a new year divorce. (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Is divorce right for you?

If the new year has thrown up doubts about your relationship, it doesn't necessarily mean divorce is on the cards.

Davison advises careful consideration before putting the divorce wheels in motion.

“Getting a divorce is not an easy decision to make,” she says. “It’s important to understand what you will have to face before you make the decision to get a divorce.

“It takes a long time to commit to a marriage so it should take careful consideration to leave.”

Davison says that if you’re struggling to make the decision it could be because you don’t have enough clear information to make that decision and are still being pulled in different directions emotionally.

“Feelings of guilt and uncertainty can cloud your judgement so by having more clarity around what the process looks like you will reduce the overwhelm and stress and enable you to make a better decision,” she adds.

And even if you decide your relationship is past the point of resolution, there are still some positives to take from the situation if you do decide to break up in 2023.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is true that we only live once so there is no point staying in an unhappy marriage,” says Davison.

“I firmly believe that divorce can be the best thing that has ever happened to you as it really does give you a chance to redesign your life the way you want it to be.

“It is true that sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can come together.”