Supporting rocky relationships through the hard times

The family-focus of Christmas is often followed in January with news of unhappy couples ending their relationship, leading to so-called Divorce Day, as family lawyers receive a surge of enquiries when they re-open after the break.  

And as the holiday season draws to a close, there are calls from those on the front-line of family breakdown for greater awareness on the part of employers of the difficulties faced by couples going through separation.

For although the process has been simplified by the introduction of no-fault divorce, the negotiations over finances and children and the impact on mental wellbeing is posing an increasing challenge.

Traditionally, more people petition for divorce in January than at any other time of the year, which is attributed to the pressure of the family Christmas get-together.  This season there are concerns that many more relationships, already under stress because of the life challenges brought about by the cost-of-living crisis, will struggle to survive.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the overall rates of divorce climbed by almost 10% in 2021.  A total of 113,505 divorces were granted in England and Wales, a 9.6% increase compared with 2020.

The emotional and financial stress of divorce may lead to anxiety, depression or even substance abuse according to a survey by the Positive Parenting Alliance which found that 95% of respondents reported their mental health suffered during their divorce.  Even in a no-fault break up, the legal process can take a long time and be expensive, as couples negotiate how to divide their assets and work out maintenance payments, child custody and contact arrangements.

Traditionally, the workplace was for work, and everyone was expected to leave their domestic lives at the door, but those attitudes have shifted. The impact of going through a divorce is not just a personal problem for the employee, as it is very likely to spill over into how they approach their work, and even their mental wellbeing.

In those circumstances it is likely to impact productivity; someone may become emotional in their interactions with others; or take a lot of sick leave to manage the stress of divorce.  But for an employer, it’s important to recognise an employee may need protection and compassion rather than a performance review.

An employee with serious ill health arising from stress could be regarded as disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.

Ending a marriage can be a tough process, and what’s needed is a well-informed, collaborative approach.  The couple, and anyone supporting or advising them, need to be focused on achieving an outcome through positive negotiation, focused on a positive future.  And, ideally, that positive approach should be reflected in support within their working environment.

To discuss this or any other related matter, please call Sharon, start a live chat or email us at

*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.


Sharon Powell

Partner, Head of Family

Sharon has over 20 years experience in all aspects of family law and in particular the financial aspects of high value divorces. Sharon is a...

Sharon Powell-Head of Family

Partner, Head of Family

Sharon Powell

Sharon has over 20 years experience in all aspects of family law and in particular the financial aspects of high value divorces. Sharon is a trained collaborative lawyer and she is particularly experienced in resolving medium to high net worth finances as well as children disputes including alienation.

She is a Resolution member and qualified in mediation and collaborative family law.

“A break up of a relationship is very sad for everyone concerned” says Sharon. “I believe that our role is to try and help both parties reach a solution which they are both happy with. When feelings are running high this can sometimes be difficult but I believe we can make a difference”.

Sharon is often thanked by her clients for her sympathetic and supportive approach through a traumatic time in their lives.

Her most memorable case was in a divorce where financial matters involving significant assets were resolved amicably yet parties persisted to argue about kitchen utensils!

Sharon qualified as a solicitor in 1986 and joined Hart Brown in 2007 becoming a partner a few months later.