When Christmas Isn’t Merry: Dealing with Family Breakdown

Dealing with Family Breakdown

There are many myths and legends that surround Christmas. There’s the story of the red-suited man delivering gifts around the world in a single night. There’s the story of Rudolph, the ostracised reindeer, who rises to the challenge and earns the respect of his team-mates. Then, there’s the story of unhappy family members suddenly cheering up when reminded of those around them. This story, in particular, is one that stems from a very real situation for countless families around the UK, every Christmas. It’s also a situation that has led to the term ‘Divorce Day’ being coined, in reference to the first working day in January.

Divorce Day

‘Divorce Day’ gained its name after law firms began to collectively acknowledge the traditional spike in new enquiries, from couples seeking to divorce in the immediate aftermath of Christmas. While some years do see a larger spike than others, it remains the case that the first working day in January is typically a particularly busy one for lawyers dealing with family and matrimonial law. Arguably, this is caused by a combination of factors, which can coalesce during the festive season.

  • Intensive time together – For most married couples, normal, everyday life is filled with activity and obligation. There’s work, maintaining the home, enjoying a social life, keeping up with any hobbies and, for those with children, parenting. In the normal course of events, any of these things can cause tension in the marriage, with disagreements arising about time allocation and the fair distribution of labour. However, for some couples, Christmas can reveal that those normal, everyday things are actually distractions. These distractions can be problematic in two, different ways. They can distract us from the work of maintaining the marriage, leading to the relationship being neglected, and they can distract us from addressing the really big relationship issues. Left to fester, these only cause more damage to the partnership. For many people, Christmas involves spending an unusual amount of intensive time together, which can bring all of these issues to a head.
  • Financial pressures – Between the festive food and the gift purchases, Christmas is expensive. In a normal year, there can also be additional travel expenses. Financial pressures are always a significant factor in divorce rates, and these can become intolerable during the festive season.
  • Personal pressures – There has always been increased personal pressure during Christmas, to make those few days perfect and extra special. This pressure has grown in parallel with the expansion of social media, with some feeling the need to compete in providing Instagram-worthy festive moments with their family, and in their home. When underlying discontentment already exists within a marriage, this pressure can be fuel for that destructive fire.
  • Reflection – The end of the year is traditionally a time for reflection. Reviews of the preceding 12 months fill the media, and individuals are encouraged to participate in annual New Year’s Resolutions. There is good reason for this – December is the end of a natural cycle and, the promise of a new year brings with it the logical urge to make a fresh start. For some people that might involve breaking a bad habit, or taking up a new exercise regime. For others, that means ending an unhappy marriage.
  • Extended family pressures – Under normal circumstances, many families maintain the Christmas tradition of spending time with extended family. For those whose everyday life is spent in the company of their own family unit, inside their own home, the introduction of extended family into that scenario can create additional stress. There is a greater likelihood of social tension, and there is increased pressure on the hosts. Where there are already problems in a marriage, this type of pressure can tip the balance as perceived loyalties are tested.
  • Alcohol – When alcohol is added to a situation that is already tense and pressured, underlying issues can very easily be brought to the fore. Cracks that were previously well hidden and largely ignored can be shoved under the spotlight as inhibitions are reduced and hangovers lead to shorter tempers. Alcohol is a staple feature for many households over the Christmas season, and is likely to contribute to divorce decisions.
  • Weather and increased darkness – It is an acknowledged fact that the often grim weather of November and December, coupled with more hours of darkness than daylight, can cause low mood in even the most motivated person. This lowness can exacerbate marital problems in the weeks preceding Christmas, at exactly the time that personal and financial pressures also build. When there is only the prospect of intensive time together with the person with whom you have been arguing, or indeed bringing extended family into an emotionally volatile situation, then these environmental issues becomes a much more significant factor in the decision to divorce.

Now, consider 2020 – “the year we stayed at home.” With a lengthy national lockdown enforced between March and July, law firms noted a surge in divorce enquiries during the summer, with one reporting “a 42% increase between 23rd March and mid-May, compared to the same period in 2019.”[1] Married couples finding themselves sequestered together faced many of the marital issues that normally arise around Christmas time, with the added stress of a national emergency, job insecurity, and issues with supply lines.

Even those marriages that generally work well have faced extreme circumstances and tensions during 2020 and, in the UK, there is only more uncertainty ahead. As we move into this festive season, the personal and financial pressures that usually arise during Christmas are intensively amplified by the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is indeed a vaccine on the horizon, but it will not save Christmas this year, and the likelihood of a busy Divorce Day 2021 is greatly increased.

Seeking divorce in 2021

So, in the aftermath of Christmas 2020, what will couples seeking divorce need to address during the process of marriage dissolution? Depending on the circumstances of the couple or family, these can include custody agreements and disputes, property rights disputes, and financial disputes. Each of these can be affected by the causes of the marital breakdown, and the specific grievances of each party. While it will be imperative to seek the advice and guidance of a good family or matrimonial law firm, it can be equally helpful to seek the support of a reputable, reliable, and qualified Private Investigator firm.

Having a Private Investigator on hand during your divorce proceedings can prove invaluable in reaching settlement agreements that are ultimately amicable, and rooted in reality. The very best Private Investigators are driven to reach the truth, and to discreetly collect and provide documentary evidence that is also admissible in court. This means that when a spouse makes claims about having a particular living arrangement that impacts a potential custody agreement, or makes claims about having a particular financial situation that impacts a final settlement, a Private Investigator will work to verify those claims.

Where divorce proceedings are particularly contentious – where there are perhaps allegations of stalking, or of surveillance issues from the other party – a Private Investigation firm can help provide court admissible evidence of criminal activity, including actions defined as intimidation. Using cutting edge technology, Private Investigators can also mount counter-surveillance activity, to uncover the truth about the steps a spouse is taking.

Accreditation is key

The key to hiring a Private Investigation firm to help you in your divorce proceedings is to look for accreditation. The Private Investigation industry is currently unregulated by government authority, so it is vital to seek the services only of Private Investigators accredited by recognised industry bodies.

OpSec Solutions is a highly regarded UK Private Investigation firm, and is heading into its 10th year of operation. During the past decade, the work of this firm has made it an industry leader in all aspects of surveillance, security, and legal support services. Guided by the principles of confidentiality and ethics, OpSec Solutions has a well-earned reputation for providing invaluable assistance in divorce cases, while exercising the utmost discretion. It is this work that has delivered numerous industry accreditations to the firm, including the Association of British Investigators, the Professional Investigators Network, and the Institute of Professional Investigators.

The OpSec Solutions team is comprised of highly experienced professionals from military, police, corporate, and government backgrounds. The firm uses innovative technology along with dedicated investigative techniques, to gather all necessary evidence by entirely legal means. All cases are worked on in bespoke fashion, so every action is entirely tailored to the situation at hand. This ensures that clients are armed with the absolute truth as they head into divorce negotiations and hearings, and can rest assured that the best interests of their family are being served during what is a stressful and upsetting time.

Everybody hopes for a peaceful and happy Christmas – especially after the unprecedented stresses and strains of 2020 – but sadly, statistics show that this will not be the case for all couples. If January 2021 sees you seeking legal advice for divorce, remember to add OpSec Solutions to your call list.


[1] source: https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-law-firm-sees-40-rise-in-divorce-inquiries-during-uk-lockdown-11999307

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