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Divorce Day: Couples Most Likely To Split In January, Government To Announce Mediation Funding

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New year, new spouse? The first week back at work means "Divorce Day" for the legal sectors, as husbands and wives begin to contact solicitors over the Christmas break.

Divorce lawyers told The Huffington Post UK that January and February were traditionally peak periods.

Vanessa Lloyd-Platt, of Lloyd Platt & Co, said: "Next week is going to be the busiest time for us, it can only describe it as manic. It's the matrimonial cliff. I have never had a year like last year, especially older couples, the silver splitters, it was quite remarkable."

Michael Rowlands, a partner in the family team at Kingsley Napley, told HuffPost UK: "People have had some time to reflect over the holiday period, it's all very obvious stuff. They have spent weeks banged up with the children, the television, the in-laws.

"They arrive back in the office and they think, right, that's it, I finally have to deal with it.

"But I have noticed particularly over the past year a trend of uncertainty, of caution, as there is in all other areas of life in times like these.

"People are making these kinds of decisions with a lot more care than before. We have seen many people, even those who have started the ball rolling to divorce, then change their minds.

father

A demonstration by Fathers4Justice: Divorce can get messy around New Year, lawyers say

"The couples who do divorce are generally older, those who have been through a lot, perhaps owned a business together and then have decided to make a go of it alone."

Lloyd-Platt said that many couples usually hope to make it through Christmas, and January is the tipping point. "It sounds bizarre, but the weather is also a contributing factor. Last year people were cooped up because of the snow, this year the rain kept people in.

"January's also the time when all the bills come in, and financial arguments about how much was spent over Christmas start, and all hell breaks loose."

The government has launched a new campaign to urge couples to consider mediation to avoid "traumatic" courtroom battles.

Last year, searches for divorce on the Ministry of Justice's website nearly doubled in January.

The Government said it would pump a further £10 million into mediation services, which on average save publicly-funded clients £3,500 and take a quarter of the time.

Family justice minister Lord Thomas McNally said: "All too often money is wasted on expensive and traumatic court hearings that can take far too long to resolve - and that is why we want to help people to use mediation, a quicker and simpler approach which brings better outcomes."

The new funding, which will bring the total spent in 2013 to £25 million, comes after changes to court processes last year which mean couples seeking a court order about child contact or a financial matter attend a mediation assessment session first.

But Lloyd-Platt warned many lawyers believe mediation can be damaging if there is no previous legal advice. "It's absolutely vital to have mediation. It's so important to have a sensible, practical agreement without a legal battle. That should be a priority.

"But people, especially women, should be very careful about mediation before they have had proper legal advice or had proper disclosure of the other half's assets, because they could end up agreeing to things without knowing their rights."

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