Divorce month and the unsuspecting spouse

For many, January is believed to be the worst month of the year! Dark nights, depleted bank balances and post-Christmas blues can be detrimental to health, lifestyle and, of course, our relationships.

As many are wanting to start afresh in January and hit that reset button, that can also mean increased pressure on marriages following increased exposure to the in-laws and financial pressures after the holiday season. Some believe this is also due to couples delaying the inevitable to ‘enjoy’ the festive period, especially where children are involved.

At Freeths, January is the busiest month of the year for us and this year we have seen record numbers of enquiries for divorce and child disputes.

In recent years, The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show almost a 10% increase yearly in divorce filings taking place in January. Interestingly, 63.1% of those divorces were instigated by wives, with only 36.9% by husbands. This matches our experience where the majority of wives divorce relatively soon after the breakdown of their marriage, whereas husbands often remain in the marriage for longer, even if they feel it has broken down.

Same-sex divorces are also on the increase. There were 1,571 same-sex divorces in 2021, an increase of 36.1% from 2020.

Same-sex divorces have only been possible since 2015, following the introduction of same-sex marriages in 2014.

What are the tell-tale signs?

Early advice and preparation can have a significant impact on the divorce process, and eventual outcomes for the parties. It is important to note that one party to the marriage can often plan to divorce, unbeknownst to their spouse, take advice and manoeuvre their finances well in advance to put themselves in a stronger financial position. There are some tell-tale signs to be alert to, especially if a client feels there are major cracks in their relationship. For example, a spouse may seek to transfer or sell property, other assets or increase borrowing as part of an overall plan. Some other indicators are:

  • The sudden purchase of another property which they will seek to reside in post-divorce
  • Investing capital in a business they will look to retain
  • Repayment of family loans which may otherwise be disputed in divorce
  • Securing joint savings/assets from being dissipated by the other spouse
  • Looking to obtain a source of capital for legal fees.

Taking these steps are likely to put a party in an advantageous financial position, and by consequence, place their spouse in a disadvantaged financial position. Early specialist legal advice can help to prevent this, protect the matrimonial assets and ultimately avoid unnecessary legal costs in trying to rectify the position where one party has dissipated assets.

It’s our view that every step should be taken to try and resolve matters amicably without the costs of litigation, both financial and emotional. It’s why we guide our clients towards the best outcome for them, their family and particularly the children. We always consider alternative dispute resolution options and the use of mediation, collaborative law, lawyer led negotiation or arbitration to resolve difficulties without court proceedings. Ranked as one of the UK’s leading law firms for family law by the Legal 500 and retaining the highest rank in Chambers & Partners, Freeths’ highly experienced team provides a wide breath of services both nationally and internationally. With a discrete and sensitive approach, the team offers advice in a variety of niche areas including:

For more information and advice on divorce, please contact Gavin Scott on gavin.scott@freeths.co.uk or another member of the team at Freeths Oxford, named number 1 family law team in the region by Legal Directorate.

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The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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