Heard of Divorce Day? There might just be some truth behind it - here are some tips for parents struggling with a strained relationship over Christmas

Wondering what Divorce Day is? We explain all...

A close up of a woman taking off her wedding ring
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We've delved into the phenomenon of Divorce Day to find out if there's any truth behind it, and the advice for parents navigating divorce over Christmas.

Christmas can be a tough time for those with unhappy family relations - it's difficult to deal with family conflicts when you're supposed to be enjoying the festivities and many are left searching for tips for avoiding family fallouts. After all that time spent celebrating together, it's no wonder that some couples who have been struggling decide to call it quits, with divorce enquiries reaching a record high in January.

It's for this reason that the first working day of the year is known as 'Divorce Day', supposedly bringing a high volume of divorce enquiries to family lawyers. Julian Bremner, divorce specialist and Partner at Rayden Solicitors, has provided his expert insight on whether Divorce Day is real, what to do if you feel your marriage is over, and some tips for parents navigating divorce over Christmas.

What is Divorce Day?

Divorce Day falls on the first working day of the new year, which in 2023 is Tuesday 2 January. Julian explains, "Divorce Day is recognised annually, alluding to a surge in post-holiday divorce filings after the festivities are over."

Recent ONS statistics show that divorce rates have risen in the last few years - 113,505 couples divorced in 2021 compared to 103,592 couples in 2020, which is a 9.6% increase.

This increase continued into last year - the Family Court stated that the second quarter of 2022 saw a 2% increase in divorce applications compared to the same period in 2021. In the third quarter, there was an 8 per cent increase. This rise may be in part due to the no-fault divorce bill which was introduced in April 2022, allowing married couples to divorce without attributing blame to the other party.

Is Divorce Day real?

The simple answer is no - divorce day is a myth. But it is true that many law firms see an increase in divorce enquiries in the first couple of months of the year.

Julian adds, "It is true to say that after Christmas there tends to be a spike in enquiries and people coming to see me to talk about the potential of divorce. The reality, from my experience, is that more divorces commence in late January or early February. We’ll see this more often if the parties have children who they want to settle back into school after the holidays."

Why is Christmas such a testing time for relationships?

Christmas is a magical time for some, but for others it can be a trying period, creating tension between family members. For many, it also means spending time with people that you ordinarily would not want to.

And Julian explains, "Also, the weather and lack of transport can sometimes mean that you are forced into proximity with people you may not have been getting on with or, in the case of your soon-to-be former partner, are thinking of divorcing."

So whilst Christmas is a joyous time for some, for others it really can be a minefield of expectations, stress and strain.

All of this can bubble to the surface over the Christmas period and put a strain on relationships which may already be having difficulties.  

A couple ignoring each other at Christmas Dinner

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to know if divorce is the right decision

Julian says, "This is a very personal decision for you. The truth is, when you know, you know."

He advises, "Whilst you can commence divorce proceedings unilaterally, it is often better to have a conversation with your soon-to-be former partner about commencing proceedings so that you can either agree on who the petitioner is and when the petition is to be filed - or at least warn them that they’re about to receive an email from the Court Service confirming a petition has been filed."

Julian explains that the petition is the starting point of the divorce process and means the Court will then have powers to deal with financial matters. He says, "It is not something that necessarily needs to be rushed. Certainly, you do not need to consider undertaking this step if it’s still very early in the breakdown of your relationship.

"However, that said, if you are starting to talk about financial settlements (either directly or in mediation), then it would be helpful to have the divorce process well underway so that once you come to an agreement the Court has the power to make financial orders on your behalf."

Tips for parents navigating divorce over Christmas

  1. Consider the longer term: Effective co-parenting hinges on maintaining healthy communication methods with your ex in the long term. Consider each interaction with your ex with your child's well-being in mind over the holidays.
  2. Keep the 'grown-up talk' out of earshot: It is known that exposing children to parental conflict is not in their interests and is potentially harmful. Research conducted by Dr. Irwin Sandler in 2013 revealed that conflict between parents poses the greatest risk for harm to children - not the divorce itself. With this in mind, it’s extremely important to work through any conflict together without involving your child. 
  3. Implement a 'parenting plan': A parenting plan is a written plan worked out between parents after they separate. It can help clarify the arrangements and set down what each parent expects of the other when the child is in their care. This can help a lot over the Christmas break when childcare arrangements tend to cross over.

Julian says, "Ultimately, the decision to divorce necessitates thoughtful consideration. The choice to exit a marriage is significant, and when that choice is made, navigating it with compassion and understanding towards yourself remains key."

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.