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Divorce rate and the festive season

Year after year people ask me whether my business is going to close down for the festive season or not. They ask me if I am busy over the festive season, being a divorce attorney.

The reality of the matter is that yes, the period over December and January is usually a very busy period for me. The courts close around mid-December. This year I had seven uncontested divorces set down in the High Court for 14 December. I managed to set down one uncontested divorce in the Regional Court for 20 December.

Many people want to go into the festive season as being divorced and we divorce attorneys normally find that we are quite busy around that time of year. For some or other reason I find year after year that a lot of these pre-festive season divorces are uncontested. This means that both parties agree from the start to the terms of the divorce.

One has to be careful before deciding on a court date in early December, as the High Court is usually in recess at that time of year on certain days, and sometimes there are no Judges available to hear the divorce. This year I was very busy sorting out my pre-festive season divorces.

I usually find that unfortunately many marriages also break down irretrievably over the festive season. There are various reasons for this. When parties have young children for example, the crèches and schools close over the festive season. This increases the pressure on the parents to help out with the children. If one party believes the other isn't doing his or her bit they will serve a divorce summons on them.

Having children together is like a partnership. There is a duty on both parents to look after the children both by spending time with them and financially. Unfortunately as with partnerships you usually have one partner who works harder than the other. This is frustrating sometimes for one of the partners, who then decide to end the partnership. Marriages are the same.

Over the festive season, people are sometimes bored and get out a lot more than they usually would. There are staff parties, Christmas and New Year parties. There is alcohol involved. With alcohol comes the temptation sometimes to be unfaithful. People hang around in bars and clubs and they don't spend time with their spouse. This leads to the breakdown in the marriage.

Financial situations over the festive season can also ruin a marriage. Parties get paid a bonus. Before they know it they have spent their bonus and their salary and have not paid school fees, motor vehicle instalments, etc. This places additional strain on the marriage, and very often ends in the divorce courts.

Nothing really can be done unfortunately to curb the divorce rate over the festive season. There will always be holidays and couples will always argue over that period. One has to act responsibly over the festive season to make a marriage work.

This article was written by Cape Town attorney, Peter M Baker

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