Divorce rates are set to rocket during 2010, with January one of the busiest months of the year.
Although the divorce rate has fallen over the past decade, financial pressures caused by the credit crunch are expected to result in increasing numbers of couples deciding to call time on their marriages.
While solicitors report that many divorce settlements were delayed in 2009, this is likely to change in 2010, as the economic outlook improves and house price rises inspire more confidence in the property market.
Shelley Hesford, partner at SAS Daniels, says, “People realise that by delaying they are simply prolonging the agony – some of our clients have been sitting on the fence for months, but they now want to move fast and start new lives as quickly as possible.”
The UK already has on of the highest divorce rates in the world, with nearly 12 divorces per 1,000 married people.
Divorce Online, an interest-based divorce service, says it saw a record number of new clients in the run-up to Christmas, with sales up 30%.
Mark Keenan, managing director of Divorce Online, believes the divorce rate will increase by at least 2% this year.
“The rise in property prices may have an impact on the divorce rate as couples who have decided to separate can physically sell their property and move on without large debts,” he explains.
Hesford agrees: "There is no doubt that an improvement in the housing market has been an influence, with more cash being realised from the sale of the marital home."
The start of the new year is likely to be one of the busiest months of the year, according to unbiased.co.uk’s chief executive Karen Barrett.
“Traditionally, more people file for divorce in January than at any other time of the year because they decide to take action after the Christmas break,” she explains.
“While the credit crunch has led to many people to put off major financial decisions, seeking professional advice as soon as possible is always the best step to get your financial affairs in order.”
However, the financial costs of divorce may keep any rise under control.
“The economic difficulties that we have had over the past couple of years have meant that, from my experience, clients are more cautious about rushing to the solicitors,” says Rachel Spencer Robb, an associate with Clarion Solicitors.
“Why spend more money that could be put to better use within the family? Couples are more attracted by the idea of mediation and collaborative law and see court proceedings and the involvement of lawyers as a last resort.”