Lawyers call January 'Divorce Month': How to avoid becoming a statistic this year

Photo by David Gomes from Pexels
Photo by David Gomes from Pexels

"When I come back from vacation in December," Billy Gundelfinger, South Africa’s best-known divorce lawyer, told Business Insider recently, "it’s usually total chaos at the office."

And it's not just local: to lawyers around the world January is known as 'Divorce Month'.

Gundelfinger explained that this spike in divorce applications in January "follows from conflict over December", as he explains that couples are forced to live in close quarters with each other during the holidays and without the distractions of work and other activities they start looking critically each other.

"And then usually one party decides: ‘This is not how I want to live the rest of my life’ and files for divorce in January,” he revealed. 

If you're feeling that way now, note that Gundelfinger recommends waiting "at least until the end of February" before filing for divorce.

"Often people rush into a divorce in January," he told Business Insider, "when the problems could be sorted out through counselling. Divorce isn’t always the answer – particularly not when there are children involved."

So how to avoid getting divorced in 2020?

We spoke to local experts to get some solid advice for couples who are looking at each other with less love after a rough holiday together.

Janet Winterbourne, an experienced couples and relationship counsellor, gave us the following tips:

1. Find the time to invest in each other - time together to connect is critical. 

2. Watch out for the silent assassins - these include cell phones, computer games or ipads that steal your time and attention. 

3. Check in regularly with each other and show an interest in what you are each doing - find out what you need to know about the other and ask what’s happening in their life. 

4. Check that your goals have been discussed and agree on what you as a couple are working towards in the future. 

5. Don’t be afraid to seek out help when you get stuck - a good counselor can mediate and make sense with you of what your dynamic is that is causing the problem. 

Best behaviour 

Sinta Ebersohn, founder of, told us that December is actually the worst time to evaluate your marriage.

"Most of us spend the entire year working hard, chasing goals and burning the candle at both ends, so that we can enjoy a well-deserved break at the end," she said. "We look forward to slowing down, breaking our routine and just letting go of all the stress and tension. This is a time when we have to unwind, undo and rest – not be on our best behaviour."

So she suggests rather wait for the new year, when everyone is revitalised, inspired to be the best versions of themselves and do better than the year before. "You might just be pleasantly surprised!" she told Parent24.

Basic requirements 

Nonetheless, there are some basic requirements for a successful and committed marriage, such as honesty, fidelity, loyalty and more. 

None of us can satisfy each and every need of another person, and there might be a time when your spouse is going through a difficult time and cannot be emotionally as available as usual, she explained, and this is when you should find a close friend or relative who can offer you the support you need.

A healthy relationship does not require both parties to always share every interest and do everything together, Ebersohn said.

"In fact there is a healthy balance to be found in being together and being apart."

Find forgiveness

The most painful situation to deal with in a marriage is when your spouse declares an affair, or being in love with someone else. We tend to get stuck on whether to forgive or not, or whether to stay together or not, Ebersohn told us.

"We get overwhelmed with feelings of rejection, shame and resentment and indulge in self-depreciation until it becomes an unbearable ordeal."

"Before embarking on such a destructive journey of suffering, consider the fact that your spouse’s indiscretion is an integral part of his/her journey and life lessons to be learnt," she advised.

"Yes, it does have an immense impact on you and there will be a lot for both of you to learn from this experience, but your spouse has to carry the load – not you. You can choose to remain free to love and support your partner through this chapter with dignity, as it is all about them and certainly not about you."

What to do if it still doesn't work out? 

Raising a family together is hard work, and sometimes marriage and relationships don't survive. But splitting up when there are kids involved is even harder. 

Parent24's #dignifieddivorce series is here to help parents navigate the legal and emotional implications of a divorce.

Find expert legal advice here: The Dignified Divorce Series

Chat back:

Share your story with us, and we could publish your mail. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24