New research: Quarter of British parents who live with their children ‘secretly consider divorce or separation’

02 January 2015

Research also shows reluctance to seek support for relationship problems

Embargoed until 00.01 Friday 2 January – ‘divorce day’

A quarter (26%) of British parents who currently live with their partner and children have secretly considered separating from or divorcing their partner, according to new research from relationships support charity OnePlusOne[1].

January is the most popular time of year to file for divorce, with the first day that many legal offices open after the festive break (January 2) dubbed ‘Divorce Day’ in legal circles.

OnePlusOne is urging parents who are thinking of separating from their partner, or have already parted, to visit its website and find out more about the free DIY online courses, help and support it offers, which help people reduce the impact of divorce and separation on children.

The charity also provides online support to couples who want help to overcome relationship issues and stay together.

The OnePlusOne poll found that although 6 in 10 people in a relationship admit to having experienced relationship problems, a quarter (23%) have never sought help from friends, family or professionals or any other source to help them manage these.

The most often turned-to sources of support are friends (23%), family (16%) and the internet (7%).

Only 4% had sought help or support from a therapist or counsellor in person, and 3% from a support service where somebody is trained to help people or listen.

OnePlusOne Director Penny Mansfield CBE comments:

“People rarely decide to separate or divorce suddenly – often they’ve been thinking about it for months, if not years.

“Seeking help at an earlier stage – when the first thoughts about separation creep in – can be the first step in resolving problems and make the likelihood of splitting up less likely.

“But for many people, the additional stress of Christmas and the start of the New Year bring these underlying problems to the surface, and they make their final decision to part.

“Separated parents who are able to communicate with one another effectively and are able to work out arrangements about money and the children early on have the best chance of preventing their children becoming stuck in the middle of their disputes.

“Our free website is a good starting point for any parent who is looking for reliable information and support to help their children through this difficult process.”

The latest government figures show that more than half (52%) of parents say they find it hard to access the support they need to agree future childcare arrangements when they separate[2].

A survey of 14 – 18 year olds with divorced parents released in November 2014 found that 1 in 3 (32%) had felt that their parents had tried turning them against one another during their dispute[3].

Jo O’Sullivan, Family Solicitor at O’Sullivan Family Law, who advises relationships charity OnePlusOne comments:

“We definitely see a peak in enquiries about divorce in January and by the time people come to us for legal advice, emotions can be running high.

“In TV dramas we see battling parents fighting custody and childcare issues out in court, but court should only ever be a final resort.

“Alternatives to court, like family mediation and collaborative practice, reduce the stress of a split on children and lead to better outcomes.

“My films on OnePlusOne’s website clearly explain all the options that are open to people.”

Notes to editors:

For more information and interviews with Penny Mansfield, relationships expert at OnePlusOne, please call the press office on 0207 553 9532

About OnePlusOne

OnePlusOne is an evidence-based charity that has been researching what makes couple relationships work or fall apart for more than 40 years. It uses the latest evidence to create services to help people to resolve their relationship difficulties themselves. The effects of family breakdown can leave children with a legacy that continues the cycle into the next generation, and the one after that. Evidence suggests that helping people develop relationship skills such as how to argue better, how to communicate effectively and how to manage stressful changes and times of change can be very effective forms of early intervention.

About the research

1 Opinium Research carried out an online survey amongst 2,002 UK adults aged 18+, from 12th to 16th December 2014 on behalf of OnePlusOne. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

[2] DWP (2013) Government funds new innovative support for separating parents (results of a YouGov Poll)

[3] Resolution. (2014, November 24). Exam results “suffering”. Retrieved 19 December 2014, from