When is The Best Time for Divorce & Do More Couples Really Split in January? Commentary by John Griffith
One of the biggest decisions divorcing couples must make is when to actually dissolve the marriage.
With January 2020 officially on the books, I took a look back at our caseloads and wondered: Do more couples really divorce in January?
If you read and watch the news, you might think so. In fact, many news articles and some law groups have even dubbed January “Divorce Month.”
January is Divorce Month?
A recent poll confirmed that the first month of the year is the most common for divorces. When researchers asked if the time of year influenced the breakup, 62% affirmed that it did.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers notes that divorce filings in the first month of the year are one-third higher than normal.
It’s easy to see why that might be.
The first of the year is when many people decide to start working on their New Year’s resolutions. They may try to kick bad habits, start a new exercise routine, and – well – some may decide to finally say goodbye to their lifelong partners.
The Holidays Have Come to an End
The holidays can be downright stressful, especially for married couples. Between travel and spending loads of time with family, all the stressors can add up, ultimately fracturing the marriage. By the time the holiday season ends, some may dread spending another holiday with their husband or wife, which can lead to a divorce filing.
If there are kids involved, it may be more difficult for parents to explain the divorce during the holiday season. But after January, everything has calmed down, so filing becomes much easier.
The National Statistics Office reported that alcohol consumption increases by over 40% on average over the holiday season. As most of us know, drinking alcohol can affect people in a variety of ways. In some cases, imbibing too much can lead to blow-out arguments and other unreasonable behavior, such as domestic violence.
Whether it’s physical or emotional abuse, this alcohol-fueled behavior can lead to an increase in divorce filings.
The holidays are typically the time when most families see the highest expenditures, and most have no extra funds coming in during this time. These money issues can put a strain on even the healthiest of marriages. When the marriage isn’t so healthy, arguments can mount, disagreements can add up, and separation is likely to occur.
Spending Too Much Time with Family
Married couples often find themselves spending more time together during the holidays than at any other time during the year. This can lead people to finally realize how unhappy they are in their relationships. Since December is often a time for reflection, it’s easy to see how January would be the time when the marriage breaks down.
Staying Together for the Children
Many couples want to spend at least one last year as a family before officially splitting up. This can cause unhappily married couples to put on a happy face for the sake of the children during the holiday season. Around 29% of married couples admitted staying together, even though they are unhappy, because of their children.
New Year, New Me
The desire to make improvements in the new year may also drive people to make drastic changes. With California and other states implementing a waiting period of at least six months, a January filing means they could be divorced by the summer. By filing in January, they are giving themselves a head start toward ending things before the next holiday season.
Year End Bonuses
Filing for divorce in January can be a strategic move if the other spouse receives a year-end bonus from their employer. Waiting to file after the new year ensures all income (including the bonus) is treated as marital property in the divorce. Once the deposit has been made and the money is in the bank, that bonus becomes fair game when discussing the division of property.
Another strategic reason to choose a January divorce filing is because of tax considerations. The couple may have filed joint tax returns in the past but filing in January lets you resolve any lingering tax issues before filing separately in the coming year.
January 6 = Divorce Day?
Not only is the month of January pegged by many as the month when more divorces are likely to occur, but January sixth is being called “Divorce Day,” as it has specifically been shown to have a surge of people looking to split from their spouses and start anew.
And if the couple doesn’t decide to file in January, they could be prompted to begin an affair instead. Incidentally, January is also the month when extra-marital affairs are most likely to occur.
March and August Are Divorce Months Also
As it so happens, January is not the only month that sees an increase of divorce filings. A few years ago, the University of Washington released a divorce study that showed that online searches for divorce and child custody surged early in the year, but they peaked in March.
The authors of the study speculated that the couples schedule their divorce filings around the winter holidays and Valentine’s Day in February. There is then another surge right around July, which is when most Americans take their summer vacations.
We’ve already discussed holiday stressors, but what about Valentine’s Day? Does disappointment during the lover’s holiday have something to do with more divorce filings in March?
The summer vacations may have the same stressors as the holidays. The big trip could put strain on the couple, leading to more filings in August.
Experts believe it all comes down to expectations not being met. When expectations fail, divorce is more likely to happen.
When is the Best Time to Get Divorced?
It’s understandable that couples looking to divorce might start looking in January, but don’t follow through until March or even August. That’s because divorce can be a long and arduous process. If the case heads to court, the divorce proceedings could drag on for weeks, months, or even years.
To make matters more difficult, the spouses may be suffering from financial hardship since the household income is now split to provide for two separate homes. Planning exactly when to exit a marriage can help you minimize any financial damage.
If finances are an issue, here are some facts you may want to consider.
Are You Selling the Marital Home?
It’s common for divorcing spouses to want to sell the home they both lived in order to afford separate and smaller residences. Before doing so, check the status of the real estate market. If the property value is high, it might be best for one spouse to live in the home while the other receives marital assets to make up for his or her share of the equity.
On the other hand, the spouse who will continue living in the home may prefer to divorce while the real estate market is down so that he or she isn’t forced to sacrifice as many assets to the other spouse.
Are Minor Children Involved?
Going through a divorce with minor children can make matters a tad more complicated. For one, both spouses’ lawyers may need to spend extra time preparing arguments related to custody. Then there is child support to consider.
In most cases, the non-custodial parent will be required to pay child support up until the child turns 18, which could be many years into the future. Furthermore, some cases require the parent to pay support while the child is in college. This may prompt the parents to want to wait until the children are older to divorce to mitigate the financial damage.
Waiting until the children are older but still dependent can have another benefit, as the children may be eligible for student loans or grants that they might not have been eligible for while the family was intact. This is because many programs only consider the custodial parent’s income when determining eligibility for financial aid.
Other Financial Considerations
You may want to wait to get divorced until both spouses have jobs and are making good incomes. Or, you may want to wait until the economy improves since both spouses will be on their own and may be forced to buy houses and cars or change jobs. You may wish to improve your credit scores, since divorce can have a significant impact on one’s credit.
If you are worried about finances and it’s keeping you from filing a divorce, consult with your divorce attorney to determine the best time for you and your spouse to call it quits.
How to Prepare for Your Divorce
If you are planning to file for divorce, you should ensure that you have all the most critical documents on hand. Here is a checklist to get you started.
Gather the Necessary Financial Information
Your attorney’s job is to help you negotiate a successful settlement, which will help you secure a more stable financial future. Without the full picture, which is provided by gathering all the relevant data, you could miss out on your fair share of assets, accounts, and investments.
The documents you collect should include the full picture. That is, they should cover your long-term history, not just the most recent transactions. Your documents should cover at least five years’ worth of data. If this information is unavailable or the marriage didn’t survive that long, try to gather as much information as possible to help your divorce attorney negotiate the settlement that’s fairest for your situation.
The financial information you gather can also help you create a new budget during and after the divorce. The idea is to obtain a clearer picture of what you spend so that you can maintain your current lifestyle as you move out and start down your own path toward a single income.
Here are the most pertinent documents to bring with you to your meetings with your divorce attorney.
- Income Tax Returns
- Employment Records
- Bank and Loan Statements
- Investment Account Statements
- Pension Plan Documentation
- Retirement Accounts
- Your Children’s Bank Accounts
- Credit Reports & Debt Records
- Trust & Will Agreements
- Social Security Statements
In addition to financial records, you should have a clear understanding of what you and your spouse brought into the marriage as far as assets are concerned. These documents, too, will be necessary for negotiating the best terms on your behalf.
- Marital Home Documentation
- Other Real Estate Records
- Vehicle Documentation
- Personal Property Information like Artwork, Jewelry & Antiques
If you want a head start on the divorce process, you would do well to create a childcare plan that you and your spouse will plan to follow once the decree is signed. This should include a list of parental responsibilities like custody and visitation, as well as medical and insurance expenses. You should also decide which spouse will claim the children as dependents on future tax returns.
To be thorough, provide your divorce attorney with documentation related to your personal lives, such as the date of your marriage, both spouses’ birthdates, social security numbers, as well as prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, if applicable.
You should also include judgments or pleadings that involve either spouse, insurance policies, and information related to other pertinent issues, such as evidence of abuse, adultery, kidnapping, substance abuse, or mental illness and instability that existed within the marriage.
Anytime is a Good Time to Schedule a Consultation
Whether it’s the first of the year, middle of the year, or the holidays are fast approaching, you shouldn’t have to spend time in a loveless or tumultuous marriage. By scheduling a consultation with a divorce attorney now, you gain some control over the process and can learn your options. This is the case whether you have already split from your spouse or not.
To learn more, contact or visit Griffith, Young, and Lass in Carlsbad, California. We can help you determine if divorce is the best course of action for your situation. Call our California Family Lawyers.