Why Divorce Day is a myth

Every January, the press is filled with stories about how the first working day of the New Year is Divorce Day”; the day on which more people instruct solicitors to start divorce proceedings than any other. The Daily Mail has decreed that this year Divorce Day falls on Friday 3 January. It’s a good story and I can see how the media are attracted to it. The trouble is that it’s nonsense.

These stories are usually filled with quotes from high profile divorce lawyers, with comments about marriages come under strain over Christmas or how unfaithful husbands get caught out during Yuletide. With the greatest of respect to them, I repeat – it’s nonsense.

I run a successful and very busy family law firm and (at the risk of tempting fate) I usually have plenty of clients. You do sometimes experience surges of new work, but they do not necessarily happen in January. I am afraid that I have become increasing sceptical about the existence of Divorce Day. I suspect that it’s largely a creation of marketing managers looking for something interesting to put in a press release.

The new clients who instruct me in January are not people whose marriages have broken down over the turkey and Christmas pudding. They tend to be people who have split up long before Christmas and decided to wait until the New Year to start the ball rolling on divorce proceedings.

I did use to believe in Divorce Day (or at least that January was a busy time for divorce lawyers). I was once a legal aid practitioner and Januarys did always seem very busy. I was once quoted by a local paper as saying that January was hell for divorce lawyers, and that the decline of legal aid meant that many people would not find it easy to find a solicitor with enough remaining legal aid matters starts in January. Someone wrote into the paper accusing me and other divorce solicitors of causing divorces, a silly comment which is like arguing that doctors make people sick.

Then, a decade ago, weary of the endless bureaucracy and lack of profitability that is the fate of a legal aid lawyer, I stopped taking on legal aid cases. The following January was a normal month, neither busier or quieter than normal. Every subsequent January has been the same.

The reality is that privately paying clients feel the pinch after Christmas, and are not keen to incur legal fees. Now that legal aid is only available to a very limited number of people, this is even more the case.

If you do need to find a solicitor, here’s some handy tips on how to choose one.

3rd January 2013

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