As the dust settles on the festive period, family lawyers often associate January with a sudden and sharp increase in the number of people seeking divorces. For a variety of reasons, Christmas and New Year can often mark a ‘crisis point’ for couples whose marriage may be in difficulties. This is well understood by family lawyers. The financial pressures of Christmas put a strain on most families’ finances. Spending time with close and extended family is not always easy. People may drink more than they are used to. It can all combine to be a ‘perfect storm’ for a lot of couples.
For those couples that unfortunately endured a difficult Christmas, seeing in the New Year may bring with it a decision and determination that their marriage should be brought to an end. However, the decision to initiate divorce proceedings should never be taken lightly. The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is that the marriage must have ‘irretrievably broken down.’ In this context the key word is ‘irretrievably.’ A miserable time at Christmas may increase existing tensions in a marriage but it should not automatically lead to a decision that all efforts to salvage the marriage are pointless.
When a family lawyer acts for a party who wishes to start divorce proceedings, there is a duty upon that lawyer to send to the court a Statement of Reconciliation. This document confirms to the court whether the lawyer has advised that party over the prospect of reconciling with their spouse and if so, whether they have been given the details of a counsellor or other person who could help with that potential reconciliation. It is not our job to force anybody into attempting reconciliation but we would be remiss in our duty as lawyers if we did not ask those key questions.
Services such as Relate are readily available to couples that are struggling in their marriage and are perhaps contemplating divorce. Marriage counsellors would be the first to say that they do not offer a magic wand to resolve problems in a relationship. However, the professional help and support they offer can sometimes make the difference for couples who wish to try their best to salvage their marriage.
Our Family Department is always ready to offer advice upon marital difficulties. We continue to offer a 30 minute free appointment to all new clients. If you are contemplating divorce or unsure of your legal position, please do get in touch.