You've all heard the one about people getting divorced in January haven't you?
You know, the couple had an horrific Christmas, the mother in law bought a terrible present someone made an awful meal, there was a drunk in the house etc? Well, for years it has bothered me. Not because I'm so busy in January but quite the opposite. It is 10th January 2012 as I write this and I haven't issued a petition all year (for shame). I'd like to know who issues the first petition this year in each court just out of curiosity if nothing else. I've never had the pleasure of being a "01"- the reference number of the first petition issued in any court.
The reason it bothers me is primarily the fact that it is always SO quiet in the office at this time of year. Of course, sometimes there are emergency situations but in my experience these are few and far between and they don't involve a person demanding a divorce on the 4th January.
So, In order to prove a point I contacted the ONS to ask them if they kept statistical data on the number of petitions (now called applications) for divorce submitted on a monthly basis. No, they said, they don't.
How then, do the media get hold of "statistics" year on year that are accurate if they are not being obtained through the National Office?
I asked the ONS for the next best thing that I could think of, the Decree Absolute records. Happily they do keep monthly records and they agrred to produce the data "as long as you pay our fee", which I duly did. 3 days later I received an email with the statistical data as requested for a 4 year period.
January - December 2008/2009/2010 and just for fun I ordered data for the year 2000 too just to see what was going on a decade ago.
Well reader, what a surprise! There is virtually no change in the percentage of Decree Absolute's pronounced over these 4 years on a monthly basis. In the year 2010 there were nearly 20,000 fewer decrees (inc nullity and Judicial separation) and yet the percentage of absolutes in divorces were pretty regular throughout the year.
In every month the percentage of decrees pronounced is between 7-10%, In the year 2010 the number of decrees in each percentage point was about 1194, so a small percentage difference could be a substantial number. I thought it was interesting to note that in August, when the courts are traditionally on vacation, the percentage held at a steady 8% over the 4 year period.
Some may say that the pronouncement of decree absolute isn't a reliable factor because in each court the time it takes to get to that stage will differ and many people don't apply for the decree absolute until the finances have been agreed or there has been a trial of the issues.
However, if there really was a spike in the number of divorce petitions sent to courts across the country in January there should be a corresponding spike elsewhere that corresponds with decree absolute pronouncements and there just isn't.
In fact in January 2008 there were more decree absolute pronouncements than in any other month, so more people are getting divorced but not in the way that most people think!