Happy Divorce Month! Wait, what? While it’s not an official designation in the way that Women’s History Month is, January has earned this nickname in legal circles. It’s exactly what you’d think: the first month of the year has a reputation for an increased number of divorce filings. In fact, the first working Monday after New Year’s Day is sometimes even called National Divorce Day (that was January 6 this year).
Is there any truth to this nickname? Last January, searches for “divorce” and related terms, such as “divorce party,” spiked on Google Trends and Pinterest, and some divorce attorney websites saw an increase in traffic, according to USA Today. Additionally, a 2016 University of Washington study of divorce filings in that state from 2001 and 2015 found that divorce filings spiked annually in January after reaching a yearly low in December.
However, that same study found that while there was a sharp increase in divorce filings in January compared to December, it wasn’t the most popular month to file for divorce. That honor went to March, with August close behind.
Emily Pollock and Kelly Frawley, partners at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, told Refinery29 via email that the “Divorce Month” and “Divorce Day” nicknames are “connected to the idea that January is a popular month (some say the most popular) to commence divorce proceedings.”
There is some truth to that reputation, they say: “We don’t necessarily see an influx of new clients in January, but it is common that clients who have been on the fence about whether to file a divorce action, or even start the discussion about divorce with their spouse, may use January as a starting point to move forward with the process,” they explain.
There’s a reason for this: Many people spend time reflecting on their past and their future in December and early January. “It’s not uncommon for people to decide to commence divorce discussions in January as the start of a new year is, for many, a time of reflection of prior life choices and consideration of future goals — a time to evaluate how to improve on the things that are not working in their lives,” they say.
Think of it as another kind of New Year’s resolution. “After such reflection, some people resolve that the weight they want to lose for the new year is their spouse,” they say. “It also can be a natural time to start the process because people who may have been thinking about it for a while, wanted to make it through the holidays and the winter school break before disrupting the family with discussions of divorce.”
Pollock and Frawley have also noticed that divorce filings tend to increase in September, during back-to-school season. “Transitional periods like the change of season and start of a new year — calendar or school — often provide the incentive to take action.”
Generally, there’s no tax or financial reason to file for divorce in January compared to later in the year, Pollock and Frawley add, though there may be a personal reason: “If you’ve decided you want to be divorced, you may as well begin taking the steps sooner rather than later.”
If you’re considering filing for divorce, they advise you to begin by meeting with a trusted attorney who can discuss your specific situation and advise on how best to move forward. “There may be economic issues or family events that argue in favor of waiting to commence proceedings, and a knowledgeable attorney can help you identify those, discuss how best to broach the topic with your spouse, and discuss what you can be doing before you start the process to be as prepared as possible once it begins,” they say. But in the end, “It really just depends on when people believe it will be best for their family.”