Hailed as the most popular time of the year for enquiries, the month of January has unofficially become synonymous with divorce. With the first Monday of January (or in this year’s case, a Tuesday due to the Bank Holiday) having been dubbed ‘divorce day’ by family law solicitors, it would seem that for many couples, Christmas is anything but the most wonderful time of the year. 

But why is this the case? Is there a reason why the divorce rates increase during the festive season? Let’s take a look. 

Christmas – an inherently stressful holiday? 

Whilst there’s no doubt that Christmas can be a time of great joy, it can also be a source of stress and tension, even for the most stable and happy families. 

However, for couples that are already struggling with shaky foundations, spending more time together than usual over the Christmas period can exacerbate any feelings of stress, anxiety and resentment. And below are some of the reasons why.

Financial stress & spending

Christmas can be notoriously expensive. With presents to buy for the children and wider family, an expensive food shop and outings to various celebrations – it all adds up. 

Financial stress is well known to be a significant factor for couples who are making decisions about their future together. It’s no surprise then that the added financial pressure of Christmas has a part to play here, especially now, in the midst of a cost of living crisis. 

Excessive alcohol 

Eat, drink and be merry. There’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying some time away from work with family and friends, and indulging yourself over Christmas. However, alcohol has the ability to amplify any existing problems, or blur the boundaries when it comes to social norms. Too much alcohol can very easily contribute to disagreements and intensify arguments, and it’s also one of the tell-tale signs that you might be ready for a divorce.

Where alcohol and substance abuse are already at play within a relationship, festivities can become nothing short of miserable. Devastatingly, it can lead to violence, with statistics showing that domestic abuse skyrockets during the festive period. In 2020, the number of domestic violence incidents almost doubled nationally over Christmas from 200,000 reports in 2019 to 369,000.

Keeping up appearances

Christmas is usually a time spent surrounded by family, but for some couples, this isn’t easy. Difficulties with in-laws or the wider family can create a highly pressurised environment, testing loyalties between couples rather than bringing them together.

For those who are already contemplating a divorce or separation, Christmas can leave them feeling under pressure to stay together for the sake of the children and wider family unit, or feeling guilty about the decisions they’ve already come to. Ultimately, it can be a very confusing and unsettling time. 

Falling out of love

Whilst Christmas can bring feelings of guilt and confusion, it can also bring new realisations and a commitment to a more positive future. 

Symbolically, January 1st represents an opportunity for change, which may spark ideas of separation or cement the feelings that have been bubbling away for a while. Falling out of love happens, and it’s not unusual for that to become more apparent during Christmas and New Year.  

If any of this is resonating with you and your circumstances, rest assured you’re not alone. The important thing is to seek advice early, to understand what your options are and what the future holds for you moving forward. If you’d like to talk to a member of the Harrogate Family Law team, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to help.