In family law circles, January has earned the reputation of “divorce month” for the surge in divorce filings seen after the holiday season. Studies also show an increase in divorce filings during August and March, both considered to be “quiet breaks” between holidays and back-to-school activities.
It’s understandable why divorce filings decrease at the end of the year. The holidays can be a very emotional and nostalgic time for families. They can give couples false hope the relationship can be repaired. They can also subject divorcing couples to a million intrusive questions from family members in town for the long weekend.
Every family is different, which means a divorce timeline that works for one couple may not work for another. If you have concerns about filing for divorce before the holidays, here are a few things to consider.
- Is the desire for divorce mutual?
It is not wise to surprise a spouse with divorce papers right before the holidays. If both partners are on the same page about seeking divorce and the proceedings are expected to be amicable, the timing of the paperwork is not as important. Couples can always wait to make the formal announcement until after the holidays.
- Are you in immediate danger or a toxic home environment?
If you are in an abusive relationship, the holiday calendar does not matter. You should seek immediate assistance from a lawyer and law enforcement, if necessary.
- Do you have a healthy co-parenting dynamic?
If you are in a high-conflict relationship, waiting the extra month or two to file for divorce can feel like an eternity. Children are also very intuitive and may sense a divorce coming before parents get a chance to make the announcement. If you can successfully hide the tension between yourself and your spouse, it might be worth waiting until after the holidays to file.
- Will the divorce be less contentious after the holidays?
For some couples, fighting increases during the holiday season. If that sounds familiar, you may want to delay filing for divorce until after the holidays. Enduring the divorce process during an already conflict-heavy season will only make the proceedings more contentious.
- Can you handle more stress on top of the financial and emotional toll of the holidays?
The holidays alone can be expensive and stressful, especially if they involve hosting or travel. If you are already overcommitted, it might be worth postponing the divorce until after the new year.
- Will having family around help you cope, or add anxiety to the situation?
If having family nearby will help you navigate the stress and sadness of divorce, filing during the holiday season might be in your best interest. If your family is known to stress you out, it might be better to wait to file and announce until they are far, far away.
- Can you handle pretending, or will it backfire?
Putting on a happy front for the holiday season is not for everyone. If you feel this dynamic might cause more conflict and pain than it’s worth, follow your instinct and do what is best for your mental health.
- Will you need the immediate assistance of professionals?
Lawyers, counselors, doctors, judges, and mediators are just a few of the professionals that may be out-of-pocket during parts of the holiday season. This limited availability can delay the divorce process into the new year. If the split is amicable and you are hoping to reach an agreement before the holidays, you should contact a family law attorney to get the process moving as soon as possible.
We Already Filed, Should We Tell the Kids After the Holidays?
Nobody wants their children to associate the magic of the holiday season with the heartbreak of a divorce. For this reason, many parents wait until after the New Year to file.
Some divorcing parents want their kids to enjoy “one last holiday together” before making the big announcement. This is an attractive idea in theory, but not always in practice. For high-conflict relationships, celebrating separately can spare children the added stress of watching parents fight, again. Children are always more observant than we think.
Depending on the ages of the children, some may feel deceived by a post-holiday divorce announcement. It implies the parents were not being genuine during the holiday celebrations. This can lead to issues with trust and resentment down the road. Family counseling can help children process these complicated feelings.
Divorce is a radical change in lifestyle. There will be a long adjustment period for everyone in the family to adapt. Divided holidays aren’t necessarily going to be worse than before, they are just going to be different.
If children have time to process the divorce before the holidays arrive, they might be willing to participate in coming up with new family traditions. Regardless of the timing of your divorce filing, make sure your parenting plan includes a holiday schedule.
Meet with a New Jersey Divorce Attorney
Like most things in life, timing is everything. You want to give serious thought to how, where, and when you ask your spouse for a divorce and announce it to your loved ones.
However, if you look hard enough, there will always be a reason to wait to file for divorce. Birthdays, holidays, vacations, soccer games, cold and flu season, summer camps, graduations, the list goes on.
The divorcing couple can’t always control the calendar, but they can make decisions together in a way that minimizes headache and heartache for the children.
A trusted divorce lawyer can help you map out a timeline that serves the best interests of your family. Contact us for a free initial consultation.