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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Sophie Watson

Lawyers brace for divorce surge in 2023 after major 2022 law change

Solicitors are bracing for a surge in warring couples racing to get divorced in 2023 after a law change made it easier to separate.

The first working Monday in January is dubbed “Divorce Day” because marital problems often worsen over the Christmas period.

Stress caused by the cost-of-living crisis, together with the usual pressures of the festive season, is expected to push even more couples over the edge.

Solicitors say they are already expecting a spike in couples splitting up in the New Year following the passing of the no-fault divorce law in April.

The law, which applies in England and Wales, allows couples to split without apportioning blame.

A statement of irretrievable breakdown, made individually or together, is seen as “conclusive evidence”.

Family lawyer Louise Hunt, of Blythe Liggins Solicitors, said she was expecting a wave of divorce inquiries after Christmas.

She said: “A spike in divorce is often due to a stressful Christmas period, when tension and financial pressures increase.

“Typically for most family lawyers, January sees a noticeable surge in enquiries received from people who want to start divorce proceedings.

“This is certainly our experience, and we find that enquiries about divorce often start to come in between Christmas and New Year, with a noticeable peak around ‘divorce day’ and throughout January.”

Family lawyer Louise Hunt, of Blythe Liggins Solicitors, is expecting a wave of divorce inquiries after Christmas (Blythe Liggins / SWNS)

The law change brought in a 20-week period for “meaningful” reflection from starting proceedings to applying for a conditional order.

There were 33,566 in April to June — a fifth more than the same period in 2021, figures show.

Under the old law, there were 19,758 decree absolutes in April to June, a 35 per cent fall on the same period last year.

Ms Hunt – who charges couples £593 for quickie divorces - added: “The change in the law has resulted in married couples being able to divorce without having to apportion blame for the breakdown of the relationship.

“Instead, couples are now able to apply on a no-fault basis, effectively ending the ‘blame game’.

“Parties also now have the option to apply for a divorce on a joint basis, which has the benefit of allowing them to start proceedings in a more conciliatory way.

“The act also introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of divorce proceedings and the application for conditional order, which is the middle stage of divorce proceedings.

“This should provide couples with a period of reflection and also enables them to cooperate and plan for the future, in terms of finances and achieving financial separation.

“It is also no longer possible to contest or defend a divorce, except on very limited grounds.”

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