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Families advised to consider children as January divorce spike set to continue

Date:4 JAN 2016

Family lawyers braced for busy New Year period as divorce enquiries forecast to continue

Couples seeking to start the New Year by starting a new life away from their current partner are being encouraged to put their children first as family lawyers expect the traditional January divorce spike to continue.

Instructions for the Irwin Mitchell divorce and family law team have traditionally been up to 25% in January compared with an average month.

The latest divorce statistics show that there are over 110,000 divorces each year, with around half of these involving children. In 2013 (the latest available information) the divorces affected more than 94,000 children under the age of 16. Now Irwin Mitchell's specialist lawyers are encouraging couples to ensure they put their children first during any separation.

Research by Irwin Mitchell revealed last year that 1 in 5 couples were planning to divorce after one last Christmas. The law firm is now working with the Kids int he Middle charity to reduce the impact of divorce and separation on children by providing a support network for people affected.

Alison Hawes, a specialist divorce and family lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said:

'Sadly, the January divorce spike is no myth, as people generally feel that the New Year offers a new start for them and their family. Every year we see a marked rise in enquiries and instructions in January from people who have decided that the time is right to separate from their partner.

Many appointments will have been made in advance by people who were already planning to start the divorce process in the New Year, while others may have had a bad time over the holiday period and realised that they want to make a fresh start in January. Financial pressures are also known to be key issues in arguments at this time of year, with 40% of parents admitting that this was causing strains in their relationship.'

The Irwin Mitchell research on stress in relationships shows that 42% of married parents said they often ended up arguing in front of their children, despite trying not to. Together with Kids in the Middle, the law firm is now encouraging couples to ensure they put their children first if they are seeking a divorce.

Alison Hawes added:

'While adults can speak to their divorce lawyers and get advice on what happens next, we know from research that young people, especially teenagers, often do not know where to turn to for advice once they are told the news by separating parents. It's important for their future that any stress during divorce is minimised.

That's where charities such as Kids in the Middle come in, as they have gathered information and resources from people who have been in the same situation to provide a voice for children caught up in divorce on their website.

There is a desire from every direction to see divorces carried out in a fair and amicable manner. Family law judges are very keen for couples, especially parents, to try to resolve disputes before resorting to court proceedings. At Irwin Mitchell we have qualified mediators or collaborative lawyers in every office.

All relationships are different and each individual divorce or separation has different issues, whether amicable or not. The important thing is to seek professional advice early so that the right course of action can be agreed, especially where children are involved.'

Duncan Fisher, who set up Kids in the Middle, said:

'Being a teenager is hard enough, and having their family life drastically changed at a crucial and often already stressful time in their lives leaves many young people feeling alone and lost. We want to give people a chance to speak to family experts as well as other young people so they can better handle the emotions and stresses that come with this situation.'

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