There are many myths surrounding divorce, and one of them is that the first of the year is the busiest time for divorce lawyers. So, where does this myth come from, and what is the truth? Keep reading to find out.
January is a time for resolutions and new beginnings, but some people cast a dark cloud over the first month of the new year. Instead of celebrating the new, the focus is on getting rid of the old. As holiday pressures and stressful family gatherings come to a close, some couples may reach the mutual conclusion to end their relationship.
Many couples may put off their divorce until after the holidays to ensure their children and family members have a "normal" holiday. In other cases, the opportunity to enter the new year as a new person is tempting. In the season of resolutions, unhappy spouses may choose the single life as their new year's goal.
Some believe that this trend started in the 1970s when baby boomers divorced at higher rates. At the time, individuality and autonomy were desirable goals, especially for women who had been relegated to the kitchen throughout the 1950s.
As more women went to college, their financial independence grew, and they did not need to depend on their husbands to provide. While it's not women who are solely responsible for the divorce hike, having more opportunities for both sexes changed how Americans viewed the nuclear family.
Then came the 1980s. A new mentality emerged as fashion took note from the 50s with a neon twist. In the words of Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film "Wall Street," "[…] greed – for lack of a better word – is good."
Economic stability and a culture of decadence encouraged many people to take fate into their own hands. High-powered stockbrokers became gods and socialites their heavenly hosts. Families moved out of diverse cities into cookie-cutter suburbs, and the idea of a white picket fence family was born.
At this time, the pressure to provide was pushed into overdrive as parents left their children to work 50+ hour weeks and keep up with the Jones's. For many families, this would lead to estranged marriages and strained relationships. However, despite marital hardship, the show had to go on until it couldn't, leaving people no choice but to seek a new beginning in the new year.
As the 90s rolled on and Y2K introduced the tech boom and the .com bubble burst, the world shrunk down to our fingertips, and many couples found that their little world was littler than they thought. People sought out technology and personal improvement, which, while a good thing, can affect relationships.
Time moved quickly, and there wasn't a second to waste in unhappiness. Television shows and movies began to feature divorced parents, and divorce became more normalized.
Divorce isn't always a contentious fight in the courtroom – in most cases, it is a mutual, civil process of dissolving the marriage contract. As the world changed, so did people and their idea of marriage. Evolution has continued throughout human history, and it's fair to say that sometimes people outgrow one another.
More people understand the legal process of divorce, and there is less stigma around the idea. Things happen that are outside of our control, and circumstances change. This is where the January = divorce pipeline takes a turn.
When Seasons Change
Studies from universities around the country and the opinions of seasoned legal professionals have shown that while law offices may receive more calls about divorce at the start of the year, filings increase in March and August instead of January.
One reason is that people often call in to get information regarding the divorce process and how it would work. A call to an attorney does not equal a divorce case. Instead, trends show that most people wait to make a final decision as the seasons change.
The beginning of spring and the end of summer are pivotal times that lead to dramatic changes in nature and our outlook on life and our circumstances. Some couples may see the new year as an opportunity to give their spouse a second chance but the relationship doesn't improve. In that case, they pursue divorce later on in the year.
Another fact that puts the January myth into question is the law itself. Each state has a version of divorce law that might include specific requirements. For example, many states have a waiting period of six months before a divorce case can proceed in court.
Other states may require proof of grounds for divorce. In other words, the court asks the spouses to explain why they want to end the marriage. These states have a "fault-based" legal process that can take time and requires careful forethought. New York courts require grounds for divorce before filing, but couples can also pursue separation due to "irreconcilable differences."
Every couple is different, and they may face unique hardships that cannot be swept under the rug as a new year's resolution. Spouses with children or those with a unique financial situation may wait to file after they have gathered the necessary documents and made arrangements for child custody.
These responsibilities often affect when a couple files for divorce. It may not be feasible to file during the first of the year, so they file later on. Division of assets also takes a long time, and spouses with high income or valuable assets may need time to evaluate their finances before filing.
While many people may inquire about divorce in January, there is little evidence to prove that it is "divorce month." Everyone has different struggles and barriers to success that make a life-changing decision like marital dissolution even harder.
Divorce and society's perception of it have changed dramatically over the decades, but the science of relationships remains a mystery. It's impossible to quantify or predict how people will behave, and any trends one year may be completely different the next.
Are You Looking for a New Start?
At Letterio & Haug, LLP, we understand that divorce is a complex and emotional decision. Our team of compassionate legal representatives gives every client the personal care and attention they need during this difficult time. Our clients get direct access to their managing attorney so they can ask questions and stay engaged.
We put our clients' futures first. Contact Letterio & Haug, LLP today to get started.