The month of January has long held the reputation of “divorce month.” Family law experts claim to see a surge in people filing for divorce after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season finally comes to an end.
It makes sense. Couples with children might want to spend one last holiday together before making the big announcement. Holidays can also intensify feelings of relationship frustration or resentment that were bubbling under the surface throughout the year.
On the flip side, the magic of the holiday season can provide false hope, and temporarily distract some couples from the realities of a dysfunctional relationship dynamic. Once the ball drops, however, reality sets back in.
Court availability also becomes more limited between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, which might force some individuals to wait until January to act. Financial planners would argue some couples wait until January to file for tax reasons, since staying married through Dec. 31 allows next year’s taxes to be filed jointly.
While all these explanations feel like they could be correct, are they statistically true? Does January really see more divorces than any other month?
Well, kind of.
There is some evidence to support the theory that divorce curiosity spikes in January.
FindLaw.com and Westlaw conducted a joint analysis of American divorce filings between 2008 and 2011, and found that filings do, in fact, increase in January. They also observed that online searches for terms like “divorce,” “family law,” and “child custody” increased by 50 percent from December to January. These behavioral trends continued through the end of March.
This post-holiday divorce phenomenon is not unique to the United States. A 2015 survey in the UK found that a whopping 1 in 5 couples intend to divorce after the holidays.
Despite the hype, January isn’t the only month seeing a spike in divorce filings. A 2016 study conducted by the University of Washington analyzed 15 years of statewide divorce filings, and concluded the most popular months to file for divorce were August and March.
The authors of the study believe these months are popular because they avoid the holidays, Valentine’s Day, and summer vacations. They suggest that major holidays and trips are seen by couples as an opportunity to give the relationship “one more shot.” If the occasion turns out to be a disappointment, it ends with a visit to a divorce lawyer.
The month of September has also been reported as a “busy season” for divorce filings, particularly the first Monday the children return to school.
While the volume of divorce filings may vary throughout the year, divorce overall is on the decline. According the Center for Disease Control, divorce in the U.S. is currently at an all-time low of three per 1,000 married couples.
Filing for divorce is a highly personal decision that differs greatly from case to case. Every family is unique. If you believe a divorce is right for you, contact the legal experts at Arons & Solomon to learn the facts, and understand your options.