January is often associated with new starts, and the beginning of the year can be a catalyst for people to make changes in their personal lives.

There are a few explanations for the rise in the number of January divorces, or people making decisions about their relationships at this time of year.

The New Year as a Turning Point

Most individuals are hesitant to go through a divorce around the festive period, often choosing to postpone the process. It is not uncommon for couples to spend one last Christmas together before deciding to separate or start divorce proceedings. For those with young children, the pressure to present a picture-perfect day for the children may lead anyone thinking of disrupting the family structure to wait until after the festivities to start proceedings.

The New Year can often offer an opportune time for couples opting to split up, with the Christmas period being the last attempt to try and save the relationship. There is also a common stereotype that many spouses do not have the best relationship with their in-laws. If this is true for some people, having the extended family at home for Christmas could act as a further motivator for change.

Bermuda’s No-Fault Divorce Process

Whatever the reason for the breakdown of a marriage, Bermuda’s no-fault divorce process can be used by any divorcing couple.

In March 2023, changes were made to the law surrounding divorce in Bermuda so that an application can now be made without either party apportioning blame for the breakdown of the marriage. These amendments have brought a welcome end to the divorce “blame game” that was required under the old legislation. Couples can now divorce without attributing blame to their spouse for the marriage’s breakdown.

Under the old procedure, divorcing couples had to prove to a judge’s satisfaction that the marriage had broken down because of adultery, other unacceptable and intolerable behaviour, the desertion of one spouse by the other for two years, or separation for a period of two years (with consent) or five years (without consent). An application that failed to provide evidence of one of those facts would be refused by the Court, even in circumstances where both spouses agreed that the marriage was over. This sometimes led to a cumbersome and costly process for many families.

The new rules simplify the process, requiring only an agreed statement that the marriage is over. Importantly, that statement is treated as conclusive evidence of the marriage breakdown and therefore removes any need for detailed reasons for the separation or any investigation by the Court.

Whilst the relatively new change in the law may go some way to reducing animosity and confrontation between divorcing couples, we understand that it can still be a very difficult and an emotional time that needs to be managed carefully, especially after the festive period and when couples might be considering their options for the New Year.

Legal Advice is Key

Those considering divorce are strongly recommended to seek legal counsel to ensure that your rights are protected and the process is handled with care and expertise. Conyers offers the legal support and clarity needed to make informed decisions. Reach out to the author or to your usual Conyers contact or the author to learn how we can help.

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