January Divorce Filings

It is very interesting to note that in January, the rate of divorce filings increases dramatically.  According to general belief, the rate climbs as much as 33% in January.  Rumor has it that January is known as “divorce season.”  Actually, the first three months of the year are “divorce season,” as the filings spike in January and seem to peak in March.

The first Monday of January has a surge in divorce filings, and it continues for most of the month.   This phenomenon is worldwide it seems – numbers from the United Kingdom and other countries reflect this same surge in divorce filings.

Why January?

There are a number of theories on why this spike occurs in January each year.  The most obvious one is that couples wait until the winter holidays are over.  They may want to give the children one more holiday with the family intact, and there is nothing wrong with that approach.  You don’t want to be the one who ruined the holidays by serving divorce papers on your spouse – you tend to put it off until after the New Year.

It could be the couple is hoping that the romance of the holiday season will smooth out the rough patches, and when that doesn’t appear to happen, the next step is officially making the break with the spouse.  This last-ditch effort is a common occurrence, but often does not result in the couple staying together.  Those that have been trying to work things out, through counseling or otherwise may come to the conclusion that the marriage really is over and it is time to move forward with the divorce.

Another reason January filings spike could be the reflections and resolutions that occur with each New Year.  If you are looking back on the year (or years) and realize you really don’t want your life to continue in that same manner, now must be the time to do something about it.  People experience many life changes at this time, and it may seem like it is the best time for you change your life, too.

Believe it or not, the winter weather has an impact on this statistic as well.  Often the gray and gloomy weather (and in more northern climates, cold and snowy!) can lead to depression and hopelessness about a relationship, causing people to take the divorce plunge.

Practical Reasons

The timing of these divorce filing may really stem from a practical consideration.  In January, the children are usually back in school, and life continues on its normal path.  It is interesting to note that the second highest numbers of divorce filings occur in September, after children are back in school for the year.

There is a scarcity of court time available from Thanksgiving on until the end of the year, and this might account for some of the timing.

There are tax reasons to consider, too.  According to the IRS, your marital status on December 31 of any given year determines how you will file your taxes for that year, so many people initiate the action early in the year so that it is hopefully completed and they can file singly in the following year.  Or they file for divorce in late December in order to be able to file taxes as a single for the previous year.

There Is No Perfect Time

While you don’t want to serve divorce papers with your holiday dinner, you need to be aware that if you are waiting for the “right time” to initiate a divorce proceeding, there is no such thing.  The “best” time is when you know you have done everything in your power to fix the problems and make it work – and it still isn’t working well.  Some couples agree as to the timing of a divorce; other couples are subject to divorce by ambush.

Often divorces are filed as a result of a traumatic event – discovery of an affair, an illness, a financial setback- and many times these events occur around the holiday season.  These events then spur one into action to file for divorce.

It is important to be considerate of your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s feelings – you don’t want to file near birthdays, holidays or significant anniversaries if possible.  That just rubs salt into an already open wound (yes, even if the divorce is their idea….).  This is a difficult time for everyone, especially if children are involved.

Don’t Just Jump on The Bandwagon

Filing for divorce should be a rational, well-thought out decision, not something done in haste or in the passion of the moment of betrayal.  There are so many things to consider, and so many factors at work, such as:

  • Your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing
  • Finding professional help – lawyer, mediator, therapist, financial advisor;
  • Housing;
  • The logistics and decisions involved in moving a residence;
  • Support issues (children and spouse);
  • Property division;
  • Pensions, investments and taxes;
  • Reactions of friends and family;
  • Mourning the loss of your dreams / relationship; and
  • Planning the best possible future for the children

Some family experts decry the use of the term “divorce season” as they think it will encourage people to file for divorce who wouldn’t have done so otherwise.  Others think the factors mentioned above are what contribute to the spike in January divorce filings, as most people do not go into this process without thinking long and hard about the impact divorce will have on them and their family.

Seek Professional Help

If you have considered divorce as your only solution, you should seek help from an experienced family law attorney.  They may be able to guide you through the divorce process in a manner that makes the best of a difficult situation, with the least amount of distress possible.