Why more South Africans split up early in the year


Around the world, January has earned the nickname “divorce month” because many couples wait until just after the December holiday season to split up.

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South Africans follow this trend, and we spoke to Alexandra Shardlow of Di Siena Attorneys to find out more. She shared some interesting insights with us.

In South Africa, it is interesting to note that there is a marked increase in divorces at this time of year, with the 2017 divorce statistics reported by Stats SA based on 25 390 finalized divorce forms and processed by the end of 2018, she told Parent24.

Whilst the total number of divorces fluctuated over the period 2008 to 2011, it is alarming to note that this was followed by a constant increase from 2012 to 2017.

The greatest number was seen in 2009 (with 30 763 divorces), which was interestingly an extremely turbulent time in South Africa’s political climate with a new president being appointed.

The Department of Statistics also reports that the largest number for divorces granted in 2017 were for marriages that lasted between 5 and 9 years. This is interesting, Shardlow says, as it is likely that these parties may in all likelihood have started young families with their children ranging from babies to the early school going years.

Two ships in the night

Any parent can well tell you that the early years of childhood development, whilst they are precious, are also extremely time and energy consuming.

Very often as is usual in South African households, both parents are required to work and share the duties of bringing in an income to support their young families, run the family home and support their children in their growth, development, educational and extra mural endeavours.

As such, very often during the year it is found that people more often than not take a “ostrich approach” to any potential fractures which may exist in their marriage and rather focus on the day to day routine of work, raising a family and making time for social activities with very little time being allocated to each other and nurturing the romantic relationship between the spouses.

Shardlow says the catch phrase of the spouses passing like “two ships in the night” is never more apt than when considering spouses within the South African context especially with a young family.

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Debt without distraction 

It is only when the parties have time to spend meaningful time in each other’s space without the distractions of work, school and the like that they are able to focus on the quality (or lack thereof) of their relationship and it is very often at this time that parties re-examine the degree of their happiness and whether they wish to continue in such a vein. 

This is compounded by the festive season which often involves the expenditure of additional money on holidays and travel together with a multitude of family celebrations often times including Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Many South Africans incur even more debt over the Christmas period, adding to the ever growing stress of modern day life.

The stresses of the holiday season as enumerated above can ultimately and finally fracture the marriage. At the end of the holiday period, very often people look at their spouses and feel that they never ever want to go through this holiday period again with such a person.

Growth and rebirth

It is very often as well that during the year with people avoiding engagements with one another that the holiday period forces the family unit to be in close quarters often in holiday accommodation with no escape.

Interaction and engagement is forced between the family unit which often presents difficulties for spouses that have separate lives during the year revolving around work, extra mural activities and the like.

Once the January period commences, people get caught up in New Year’s resolutions and the desire to make improvements in the forthcoming year, which often drives people to make certain changes to their lives.

After a turbulent, difficult and uncomfortable holiday period it is very often that the January period marks a period of the growth and rebirth of people seeking out divorce lawyers in the droves.

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Proceed with dignity

It is also trite that to the extent that spouses are unhappy during the course of the normal working year they wish to preserve one final holiday very often for the sake of their children which can be placed in the memory banks as a “happy” family memory, before breaking the news to their children in the forthcoming year.

This however, is extremely short sighted, Shardlow says, as to the extent that any arguments or disagreements may arise during the tense and stressful holiday period, it is certainly not in the best interests of the minor children.

For this reason it is incredibly important to proceed with dignity, and kindness and arm yourself with knowledge prior to engaging with a divorce attorney, Shardlow stresses.

Get the right help

Divorce is not easy on any of the parties, but it can be made less contentious by engaging with a competent yet sensitive attorney who is fully appraised with the legal ramifications relating to this very specialised area of law.

It is imperative that when choosing your attorney, Shardlow stresses, that your attorney is fully appraised of all circumstances which relate to your matter and that your attorney can offer the comfort of attempting to resolve the current divorce in the most pragmatic, cost effective manner and with your psychological wellbeing remaining in tact.

The divorce process can be extremely intimidating and the more knowledgeable you are and the more competent your attorney is the easier the process will be.

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Compiled for Parent24 by Elizabeth Mamacos

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