Family Law Associate Laura Dolan unravels the reasons behind the seasonal divorce trend, exploring the unique factors that make January a pivotal time for those contemplating or initiating separation.
As the new year begins, January has a reputation as the “Divorce Month”. Contrary to the festive spirit that the Christmas season usually embodies, the first month of the year seems to see a surge in family law separation enquiries.
Top 5 reasons couples call it quits in January
1. Reflection and resolution
January symbolises a ‘fresh start’, a time when people reflect on their lives and set resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. This introspective period often prompts people to confront lingering issues within their relationships, and some choose to make the difficult decision to initiate a separation.
Given that many people are on holiday from work, this time of year offers the space and time necessary to consider what is going on in your life and what you may like to change.
2. Holiday season pressures
The festive season, traditionally associated with joy and togetherness, can paradoxically strain relationships. This is the mix of increased time spent together and with extended family, financial pressures associated with things such as gift-giving and travel and even unrealistic expectations. As the calendar year turns and families have endured the seasonal pressures, some individuals may decide to address these issues head-on.
3. Delays for the sake of Christmas
Many couples choose to delay separation during the holiday season to maintain a semblance of normalcy for the sake of family and friends.
Those with children tend to avoid separating before Christmas as this is generally a time where there are family traditions and festivities to uphold. Many couples choose not to separate during this time for the sake of their children. Once children return to school in January, parents who are considering separation often act and make the time to seek advice.
4. Finances – Year-end financial assessment
The end of the calendar year prompts many individuals to assess their financial standing. This issue may be more relevant now than in previous years as a result of the increasing cost of living experienced throughout 2023. Couples may delay separation until the new year for financial planning purposes.
5. Seeking emotional closure
The symbolism of a new year often motivates individuals to seek emotional closure and embark on their new journey. January becomes a month of choice for those seeking a fresh start and the opportunity to move on with their lives, post-separation or divorce.
The cost of divorce in Australia
Financial strain can significantly affect how quickly people file for divorce. This trend has been accentuated by the rising cost of living in 2023, placing added pressure on many relationships.
Indeed, a higher number of couples than ever before are choosing to remain under one roof following separation as it has become increasingly difficult to secure alternative accommodation whilst maintaining financial commitments, such as a mortgage.
While the initial divorce application is relatively inexpensive, additional legal matters, such as finalising property settlements, parenting arrangements, and spousal support, contribute to the perception that divorces are costly.
The costs of resolving family law matters can vary significantly depending on the approach the parties choose to take. These can include:
- Agreement by consent: couples who can quickly agree on property matters and parenting arrangements save time and money by avoiding protracted legal disputes that can erode marital funds.
- Mediation: provides another avenue for resolution, where a neutral third party (the mediator) helps you and your former partner negotiate a property settlement agreement and/or parenting arrangements for children. The best results are usually achieved when the parties are both legally represented at the mediation by experienced family lawyers.
- Arbitration: is an option if mediation has proved unsuccessful. Arbitration involves a neutral third party (the arbitrator) being presented with all the evidence and making a decision that is binding on the parties. This is more expensive than mediation, however, is still a substantially faster and cheaper way to resolve a property settlement matter compared to going to court.
- Litigation: if all else has failed, there is the option of taking your matter to court, where a judge will decide your case and make binding orders for the resolution of property and/or parenting matters, however with this option, the financial implications can really escalate. Before pursuing this route, you should consider fees related to engaging legal representation, and court application fees, as well as other costs associated with the judicial process, including the hiring of accountants and valuers involved in your case, as well as the financial ramifications of any subsequent decision.
It is crucial to recognise that pursuing resolution by consent with your former partner not only streamlines the process for dividing your property but also minimises the financial burden and emotional stress associated with a lengthy legal dispute.
This principle also holds for parenting arrangements; agreements reached amicably between parents, whether through a parenting plan or consent orders, tend to keep costs at a more reasonable level compared to contentious litigation and allows the parents to preserve a future co-parenting relationship.
Are you considering a divorce?
If you are still at the very early stages of your separation but have yet to see a lawyer for initial advice – it may be beneficial to look at our separation checklists, which provide a detailed list of what steps lay ahead for you.
If you have children, please click here to download your separation checklist.
If you don’t have children, please click here to download your separation checklist.
We have also published a recent blog on the top things to consider before you separate from your partner, helping you make informed decisions about the future that will protect your interests. Read it here.
At Attwood Marshall Lawyers, we have a dedicated team of family lawyers who practice exclusively in this complex area of law. Our team works to reduce any conflict throughout the divorce process and helps you deal with all aspects that must be finalised upon separation.
If you need legal help with a family law matter, please get in touch with our Family Law Department Manager Donna Tolley on direct line at 07 5506 8241, email firstname.lastname@example.org or free call 1800 621 071 any time.
Our family lawyers are available for appointments at all our conveniently located offices at Robina Town Centre, Coolangatta, Southport, Kingscliff, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.