Research shows many couples make decision to split before Christmas, but stay together to avoid ruining festivities
Once the Christmas tree has been taken down, many couples set about the process of officially dismantling their marriages, having held off to avoid spoiling the festive season for family and friends.
Co-operative Legal Services anticipates a 332% rise in divorce inquiries next month, compared with the previous four months. For many of those divorcing, the strain of Christmas was not to blame; a split was already on the cards for a quarter of couples who delayed making the announcement.
The research on 500 divorcees, commissioned by the family law provider, showed men (27%) are marginally more likely than women (23%) to hold off from instigating proceedings until after a family occasion. Overall, women are more likely to begin a conversation about separating than men, with more than half (55%) of divorced women saying this was the case, compared with a third of divorced men.
When asked why divorcees held off until after celebratory occasions, not wanting to spoil proceedings was the most common reason, with more than two in five (43%) saying this was the case.
A third wanted to have one last Christmas as a family, while a tenth of divorcees did not want to upset others. Nearly a third (32%) had not yet confirmed they were going to get divorced, while another tenth did not want to spoil a child’s birthday.
There was regret among some adults who did not wait until after a family occasion to announce plans to separate, with more than a third (35%) saying that they wished they had held off until after such events had passed.
Sam Hickman, head of family law at Co-Op Legal Services, said: “We know from our research that this anticipated surge in inquiries is not as a result of Christmas being the straw that broke the camel’s back. The decision to separate is not taken lightly and couples have already considered divorcing for a number of months and hold off announcing their plans until after the festive period, mainly to avoid upset among family members.”
The most common reasons for divorce were adultery (51%), falling out of love (32%) and arguing more frequently (11%).
Research from the Marriage Foundation showed there has been a sharp fall in the number of women seeking divorce in the first five years of marriage, suggesting, it said, that men were behaving less badly over this period.
The figures revealed that 4.2% of wives were demanding an end to their marriage in the first five years, the lowest level since 1973, and close to half the rate in 1986 – the worse year for marriages that went on to end in divorce.
A total of 114,720 couples divorced in England and Wales in 2013, down by more than 50,000 from a peak of 165,018 in 1993. Sir Paul Coleridge, the founder of the Marriage Foundation, told the Sunday Times that the decline in women seeking divorce in the first five years suggested that men were catching up with women’s expectations.
“The scale of the decrease in women filing for divorce suggests that ‘men doing better’ must be a significant factor,” he said.
Since the 1960s, the period between the third and sixth year of marriage has posed the biggest risk to the continuation of partnerships, as this tends to coincide with the pressure of starting a family.
According to the Marriage Foundation research, commissioned from the Office for National Statistics, while 7.9% of women who married in 1986 had filed for divorce within five years, this had fallen to 4.2% among those who married in 2008.
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