CAROLINE ANSELL: First working day of year ‘Divorce Day’

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell

Unmanageable debt post-Christmas and the January spike in diet club membership are as traditional as ‘the holly and the ivy’ and both reflect significant issues for us to address as individuals and as a society.

The lesser known, more recent seasonal phenomenon to add to this ‘perfect storm’ is ‘divorce day’, otherwise known as the first working day in January.

One legal firm predicted a 300 per cent rise in divorce enquiries for this opening week of 2017.

Why?

With expectation and pressures sky high, a bombardment of idealised images, ads and films on offer complete with that ‘new year, new you’ message, it’s not surprising that relationships are not just tested but put front and centre stage.

For some, leaving a toxic relationship is not the best way forward it’s the only way forward and it’s shocking that every week, two women die at the hands of an abusive partner or former partner.

Every split is its own story and its own heartache but there are pressures and triggers in common and there is a role for government to play.

Families are the foundation to the best life chances so, just like debt and the rising obesity epidemic, couple and family stability has important policy implications.

This policy work reaches across every department from Education, Work and Pensions to Justice and the Treasury.

In our new digital age ‘divorce day’ may move into decline.

A divorce app, it is suggested, could help couples decide if their relationship has a future, ads tell us we can start a divorce ‘online and in minutes’, one ‘DIY’ divorce site claims it costs just £37.

A more realistic sum is four figures but the average cost of reaching a settlement has been estimated at around the £70k mark.

What is easier to fix on is that divorcees are generally poorer for the loss of shared assets.

That is just the financial picture, the true cost is much harder to quantify and the true picture of parenting and family breakdown is much, much wider than divorce statistics for January or indeed any month of the year.

Family breakdown, says the Centre for Social Justice, is not about divorce. There is much more separation in unmarried parents. Going forward, how we support relationships before, during and in the event of break up, will be defining, not just for the New Year but for the next generation.