Divorced couples in the North West facing a stressful and lonely Christmas

Year Published: 2013

A local MP has called on divorcing couples to avoid the courts where possible when ending a marriage. Stephen Mosley, MP for the City of Chester, made the comments at an event on Monday morning to mark Family Dispute Resolution Week, as a new poll highlighted the UK’s ‘Christmas stress factors’.

Mr Mosley said “The end of a marriage is always a difficult time, but many people still think the only recourse is through the courts. This can be expensive and stressful at a time when people are already feeling vulnerable and can have wide reaching impact beyond the two people breaking up. A more collaborative approach, with the right legal support, could avoid the costs of court and help people move on in a more positive manner.”

Mr Mosley was speaking at the Chester Collaborative Family Law Pod event, a group of lawyers from the area that work to help divorcing couples avoid the process of a court-based separation. The breakfast event, held at Chester Racecourse, marked the beginning of Family Dispute Resolution Week, and coincided with a new poll conducted by Resolution, the body representing 6,500 family law professionals in England and Wales.

The poll of the UK’s ‘Christmas stress factors’ found that people in the North West of England, particularly divorced or separated couples, are bracing themselves for a stressful festive season. According to the research 29% of people in the North West say they are not looking forward to the Christmas season, rising to over a third (37%) for people who are divorced or separated.

The new data, published one month before Christmas, assessed a range of festive stress factors and found that making family arrangements, a fear of loneliness and deciding where to spend Christmas all caused “significant” concerns for many families in the North West, “particularly divorced couples”.

The survey of adults in the North West, based on a ComRes poll for Resolution, found that:

  • 44% say they “find the Christmas season very stressful”, rising to 50% for divorced couples;
  • 33% “just want the Christmas season to be over with as quickly as possible”, rising to 42% for divorced people;
  • 46% of respondents say that they “like organising Christmas parties / get togethers for my family” but that fell to 38% for divorced people;
  • Just 58% of divorced couples agreed that “Christmas season is a great opportunity to catch up with family I don’t usually see”, compared with 64% for all people in the North West;
  • Loneliness is a problem for lots of people. 15% of those surveyed said that they “feel particularly lonely during the Christmas season” rising to 19% for divorced people;
  • 40% of people who responded said that they “find making arrangements during the Christmas season is stressful”, rising to 47% for people who are divorced.

Partner at SAS Daniels LLP said: “Many aspects of the festive season cause acute stress for families in the North West but it is significant that particularly divorced or separated couples find the Christmas season stressful. We also know that the festive season can put a real stress on relationships. For those couples who are going through a separation, it can often be made significantly less stressful and more financially manageable by exploring all the options that are available.”

She added, “Our research also found that many people are unaware of their options when they are going through a break-up. Whilst for some couples court is unavoidable, for many more there are alternatives such as family mediation, family arbitration and the collaborative process. Resolution members are committed to helping couples going through break-ups to do so in the least stressful way possible, in order to help make future Christmases easier for both children and adults.”

The polling was commissioned as part of Family Dispute Resolution Week (25 – 30 Nov 2013) during which Resolution is launching a new advice guide, providing more information about the options available for couples going through separation or divorce. This guide can be downloaded at: www.resolution.org.uk/separatingtogether

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