DIVORCE Day – is it a myth, or should we all just carry on as normal? Every January, the media is full of stories and articles about ‘Divorce Day’, usually the first working day in January, when divorce lawyers are supposed to be inundated with new enquiries, after couples have found the stress of Christmas to be too much, and/or take New Year’s Resolutions to leave difficult relationships.

But is this real, or is it something concocted each January?

My genuine experience is that it is a bit of a myth.

Yes, we often do find that after the Christmas break, the phones go a bit crazy, and so far my office is definitely experiencing a lot of new enquiries, but I think it’s more to do with offices being shut for extended periods, and also sometimes more to do with being off work, and having some time available to make the call, rather than Christmas and new year themselves.

I would say that the calls we’ve taken this year are far more to do with other family issues than with divorce; we’ve noticed a massive increase in inquiries from relatives looking after, or seeking to look after children, seeking advice on kinship care. There has also been a steady flow of inquiries about child protection matters, and domestic abuse.

Indeed, for child protection and care proceedings there has been a year on year increase for a number of years now, not just locally, but nationally.

A post-Christmas increase is probably more to do with local authority annual leave at the end of December, than Christmas itself, although alcohol-induced domestic abuse, may contribute to a slight seasonal increase.

My advice, is to use January to take stock. Don’t rush into anything unless it is an emergency. And it is also an important time to make sure that you have an up-to-date and properly drafted Will, or that you have arrangements in place if you are sharing a house or have children together, particularly if you are unmarried.

From today, with very little notice (we heard about this just before Christmas) the Ministry of Justice is changing a number of the most common court forms. So, for instance, if you were about to issue your application for divorce finances, the form (Form A) will be different from today. Likewise, the form for any section 8 orders (Form C100) is also changing from today, so any application for a Child Arrangements Order will also be on a different form.

Other changes on the horizon for family law?

Obviously there is Brexit. None of us really know yet how that will affect family law matters. It will depend on the negotiations, but there is likely to be an effect of international families, and jurisdiction, and may also be an impact where the Human Rights legislation impacts on family law.

Family lawyers continue to hope that no fault-based divorce and more rights for cohabiting couples may be introduced, but with Brexit and the economy taking precedence, I will probably be saying the exact same thing this time next year, sadly.