Why is January Such a Popular Month for Divorces?

It’s the busiest month for divorce, and not just in Missouri or the United States. In the United Kingdom, the first working Monday of the new year is called “Divorce Day” and is the busiest day of the year for UK family law attorneys. 

The number of divorce filings in January increased upwards of 25 to 30 percent higher than average. Why? Part of it is that unhappy spouses just want to make it through the holidays. That is the simple and most common reason provided by new divorce clients in January. The new divorce client may have been thinking about divorce since late summer or early fall but simply wanted to wait until after January 1 before acting. There’s also the stress of the holiday season. Thanksgiving and Christmas may place you with in-laws and extended family. After spending both money and time with your spouse’s extended family, many spouses sit there at that moment and think – Do I want to do this again next year? A decision is then made that he or she won’t spend one more holiday season with their spouse or mother-in-law. So, the process of filing for divorce begins on January 2.

Many people who feel upset or unhappy in their marriage may also believe that waiting until January can be beneficial when it comes to child custody arrangements. School-age children usually have three to five days off for Thanksgiving and then another fourteen days off for Winter Break. There is a three-day weekend in January for Martin Luther King Day, but school-age children don’t usually have another block of time off until Spring Break. So, January provides plenty of time to figure out a temporary custody schedule before the longer school breaks for Spring and Summer roll around.

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. Some spouses simply make filing for divorce their New Year’s Resolution. They see January and the new year to be the start of a new chapter in their life. It’s not just about separating and ending a marriage; rather, it’s about starting something new and becoming a new person in 2024. Maybe one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent and the divorce will get him or her back into the workforce. Maybe one spouse has been in control of all the finances throughout the marriage and the divorce will educate him or her about what is earned and what is spent each month for the family. Spouses who think about divorce as the first day of the rest of their life, view it as a positive compared to looking at divorce as the tragic and horrible end of their marriage. If you have children with your spouse, this mindsight is the first step in viewing your soon-to-be former spouse as your co-parent. This perspective also tends to lead to good co-parenting as the spouse understands that the relationship will continue post-divorce and it is best for the children to get along with their other parent. 

For some spouses, there were financial reasons for waiting to file for divorce in January. Usually, this is simply the benefit of filing a joint income tax return. Also, filing in January provides a reasonable expectation that the divorce can be done by the end of the year and that spouses will start filing income tax returns separately starting next year. Another common financial reason is that one spouse is waiting for the other to get paid their annual employment bonus. The opposite can be true as well if one spouse typically gets paid their annual bonus in December, he or she will want to file in January with the hope that the divorce will be completed earlier in the calendar year so the bonus can be accrued through the year doesn’t have to be divided at divorce. 

The holiday season may have brought a conflict in parenting styles to the forefront. 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 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. Parents reflect on this conflict and think about what they want for their children during next year’s holiday season. Parents who file in January have the goal of being divorced before next year’s holiday season so their children can feel a sense of normalcy and not conflict over Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

If you have decided January is the month 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 divorce. Assess your current employment and its stability post-divorce. Consider 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 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 assistance of an experienced divorce attorney in Creve Coeur and O’Fallon or have questions about your divorce situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those questions with you.

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