Why January to March sees a huge surge in divorce filings

This article looks at why the holidays and financial issues make January a popular month to divorce.

The first three months of the year are a time when many people resolve to make significant changes in their lives. That may explain why divorce filings tend to surge in the three months between January and March. In fact, as CNN reports, the increase in divorce filings at the start of the year has become so consistent and predictable that January has even earned the nickname "Divorce Month." While it may seem odd that this one particular time of the year is so popular for divorces, analysts say a combination of factors actually contributes to the surge.

How popular is January for divorce?

A recent study by FindLaw.com and Westlaw found that divorce filings do indeed spike in January and continue to rise until March, when they hit their peak and then fall back down to more normal levels. The fact that many people don't actually get divorced until March suggests that quite a few people use January to begin seriously thinking about divorce before actually filing in March.

Reasons for the divorce season

The reasons why so many people choose January to March to file for divorce are numerous and diverse. Perhaps the most obvious reason is that the holiday season can be especially stressful and for many couples one more bad holiday experience with each other and their in-laws can leave them realizing their marriages are no longer salvageable. In fact, that same FindLaw.com/Westlaw study also found that searches for the terms "divorce," "family law," and "child custody" actually rise 50 percent beginning in December.

Also, as CBS News reports, another study of a popular dating site for people who are married found that the most popular day for signups is the second Monday after Christmas. That suggests that many marriages are feeling significant strain in the aftermath of the holiday season.

However, there are practical and financial reasons to wait until January to divorce. For one, waiting until the new year allows couples who are going through a divorce to file their taxes jointly for the previous year. Also, one spouse may end up receiving a Christmas bonus in December, which can suddenly make leaving an unhappy marriage and living a more independent life seem more realistic. At the same time, however, that Christmas bonus also means that there could be more money on hand that will have to be split with a future ex-spouse.

Family law help

No matter when it happens or how amicable it is, divorce is a difficult and complicated process. For those who are considering a divorce, a family law attorney can help. An experienced attorney will be able to help clients with many of the short- and long-term issues that will have to be dealt with, including with dividing marital property, working out spousal maintenance, and, if necessary, coming to an agreement concerning child support and custody.