New year, new start? Why divorce rates rise in January

While a fresh year traditionally signals a fresh start, latest research shows that January often brings a spike in decisions to get divorced. Louise Daniel, associate solicitors at WHN Solicitors, discusses the issues.

The end of one year and the start of the next is a period of mixed fortunes for some married couples. As a family law firm, we tend to see a dip in divorce work towards the end of the year, followed by a steep rise in January when new divorces hit an annual peak.

The figures behind the facts

A study from divorce support service Amicable suggests that more than 40,500 people will enter the word ‘divorce’ into their computer search engines this month.

This is underscored by data from Google Trends, revealing that January 2016 and 2012 had the highest number of divorce searches per month in the last ten years. Conversely, the Google data also indicates that December is a perennial low-point for divorce searches.

Christmas is not so merry for many couples

So what happens during the seemingly jolly festive period that prompts many couples to reach the difficult decision to separate?

It’s true that the new year is widely seen as an opportunity to make a fresh start, but this can mean very different things, depending on your perspective. For example, many individuals realise they don’t want to be in the same place – physically or emotionally – in another twelve months.

Others will ‘keep it together’ during the Christmas holidays, typically for the sake of their children, and also perhaps to have one last go at making their relationship work. Moreover, couples are frequently reluctant to start difficult conversations during the build up to Christmas, which is about family and coming together.

Of course, the holiday period also comes with financial and domestic pressures that can open up rifts in relationships and bring longstanding issues to the boil. This can be exacerbated by couples spending more time together than normal and getting on each other’s nerves.

Combined with time away from work to brood and reflect, it is perhaps not surprising that a lot of people decide to bite the bullet of divorce when the celebratory period comes to an end.

Why changes to our divorce system should be explored

Many in the legal system are calling for a change to divorce laws to a no-fault divorce system, rather than the more adversarial process currently in place, although most lawyers will endeavour to deal with your case with a little acrimony as possible.

In its place, the advocates of change would like to see a more conciliatory approach that reflects those in other western countries and focuses on reaching a more amiable and less costly settlement.

We think there’s merit in this argument and would like to see it explored further. In the final analysis, keeping things as amicable as possible is a worthwhile goal for all concerned, emotionally and financially.

For further advice on divorce or family law, call Louise Daniel on 01706 213 356 or email her at