A family law expert has warned that the Christmas holidays will be a time of ill-will for many families living in East Lancashire.

And Blackburn-based Barbara Crook said that the stresses of the festive season will prove too-much for many couples, leaving solicitors and voluntary organisations to pick up the pieces in the New Year.

Barbara, of Farleys Solicitors and the local representative of the Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA), said she and her colleagues are preparing for the usual post-Christmas influx of couples for which the festive season has proved the final straw.

"For many people it seems the enforced togetherness over Christmas, far from bringing them together, actually drives them apart," said Barbara. She said some firms even open their doors between Christmas and New Year to help deal with urgent cases, where spouses or children have been under threat of violence and need protection.

"Thankfully, such cases are few and far between, but they are sufficient in number to cause alarm," she said." It is important that those at risk know what help is available, whatever the day of the year."

Chairman of the SFLA Jane Craig, urged couples experiencing difficulties to take a step back and not rush headlong into something they may later regret.

"Christmas can be a time of great pressure for families, financially and emotionally," said Jane.

"But people should not make rash decisions about their marriage while under that pressure. Couples who find the festive season brings to the fore underlying marriage problems need to take careful stock before making decisions which will affect the rest of their lives."