The number of divorce filings spike in January upward of 25-30 percent higher than average. Why? Is it that the excitement of the holiday season is over? Is it that you no longer have your friends and family around and it is just you and your spouse? Is it marital problems that were around before Thanksgiving have come back again and there is no major event preventing you from confronting them? These are just a few possible reasons and not one married couple is the same as another. Every divorce is different.
Many people who feel upset or unhappy in their marriage usually do not want to take any action during the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. During the holidays, we buy gifts and try to keep up with family and friends. Both acts may lead to marital strife in January. For example, if you spent time with family and friends with different financial means then there could be peer pressure to try and live above your means to keep up with their holiday shopping and spending. Maybe your children were begging you for the latest iPhone, Xbox, or a trampoline, which you could not afford, but purchased as you didn’t want to let them down. This extra spending can lead to extra relationship stress and can take a toll on a marriage. If your marriage was already in crisis, one spouse may believe that buying the other spouse expensive gifts will be a quick fix to the marriage. However, this can further lead to marital problems by only adding to the financial burden and not addressing the underlying relationship issues. For many individuals, dealing with your own extended family can be difficult. But also having to deal with your in-laws and the rest of your spouse’s family during the holidays can be taxing on any marriage. The pressure of holiday time being enjoyed with family is real. When the expectation of getting along backfires, and family arguments ensue, resentment toward your spouse can cause a marriage to break down.
The holiday season can also bring to the forefront a conflict in parenting styles. Thanksgiving through New Year’s takes us out of our usual daily routines, which can be incredibly destructive if children are involved. In most families, parents have agreed on the parenting duties, so the children are kept in a daily routine. These parenting duties are more imbalanced in a family where one parent stays at home with the children. During the holidays, both parents are usually at home with the children. A parent who has not been exposed to the routine set by the other parent with the children may try to step in and help or disagree with the other parent’s parenting style. This act can cause marital disagreements and disruption to the entire family. Additionally, there can be conflicts in the parenting styles of in-laws, grandparents, extended family, and friends who are influencing the children’s behavior during the holiday season. These differences can cause additional stress and pressure, particularly when boundaries are not set and respected, resulting in these other individuals stepping into a parenting role. If your spouse did not advocate for that behavior being inappropriate, it can cause hostility and resentment in your marital relationship. These parenting disputes can often affect both the parents’ and the children’s stress levels resulting in small disputes becoming large arguments when everyone is stressed. In general, having everyone home around the holidays can cause conflicts between the entire family and be the breaking point for marriages.
A new year brings about a time for self-reflection, goal setting, and a fresh start. We tend to evaluate where we are, and where we want to be in the future. If our relationships aren’t serving us, we may have more clarity on how to move forward at this time of year, and sometimes that might mean parting ways with our spouse.
Divorce is a life-altering decision with permanent consequences and should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, when we feel most emotional, we tend to make impulsive decisions and we may not have thought through all the implications. For example, will this decision hurt the children, particularly at this time in their lives? Do I have enough financial information to make an informed judgment about what I stand to lose from a divorce? Do I have a budget prepared, housing secured, and other necessary contingencies? Once you file for divorce, you will not have easy access to certain documents you may have now, as well as perhaps your house. And once the ball gets rolling, you may find out you were not emotionally prepared for what happens when the process begins.
Given all of these emotion-over-reason issues, make sure you have taken the time to process the turmoil of the holidays. If afterward, you decide to proceed forward with a divorce, you should gather your tax materials for the previous year, collect all your financial documents, assess your finances to pay for the divorce at this time, think through what type of custody arrangement you would like for the children, and how you plan to tell the children of your decision. Consider whether you are currently earning enough money each month to support yourself. Ask yourself whether you want to stay in the marital home after the divorce. Assess your current employment and its stability post-divorce. Think about what lifestyle you will want after divorce and what that lifestyle may cost monthly. Do you know your family’s financial needs today? Decide how much you are willing to spend on divorce and whether you believe mediation would work best to try and reach an amicable agreement with your spouse. The more thought you put into divorce before calling to schedule an appointment with an attorney, the better informed you will be when you have your initial client meeting. Your resolution to the divorce may indeed be what you need for this year – but timing is everything and you want to be prepared financially and emotionally.
Focusing on all of the above will not only help you with how to prepare for your divorce but will also help you make better choices during the process and hopefully increase your ability to secure your financial future. Should you need the advice of an experienced divorce attorney or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those issues with you.