Experienced divorce attorneys often notice a sudden influx in divorce consultations around the holidays. Aside from making our work a little more hectic at the most inopportune time possible, this phenomenon has puzzled legal experts for many years. Why exactly do so many spouses decide to get divorced at this point during the year? Perhaps more importantly, is it even a good idea from a financial perspective?
Understanding the Statistics
In 2016, the University of Washington published a report that asked a simple question: Is Divorce Seasonal? This study caused quite a stir when it was first released – and people are still talking about it today. The results were surprising to many – but perhaps less so for veteran divorce lawyers. According to the study, divorce was most frequent at two specific times during the year: March and August.
While this might suggest that Christmas and divorce are completely unrelated, the math implies that there is indeed a connection. If Christmas represents the point at which spouses formally decide to get divorced, a two-month waiting period is to be expected. This leaves us a filing date of March.
Why Does Winter End Marriages?
There are various theories as to why the holiday season is such an effective destroyer of marriages.
Some say that spouses are more likely to spend extended periods of time together during the holidays. During these extended periods, their incompatibility becomes difficult to ignore. For many spouses, work represents their last remaining place of refuge. The holiday season offers no escape from their partners, and they are forced to confront the obvious failure of their own marriages.
Some say that it’s all about the kids. Christmas gives children one last happy memory of a cohesive family before they are forced to endure the hardship of a broken marriage. Parents put on a brave face, give their kids plenty of presents, and then break the news once the new year rolls around. August filings may also be related to children, as parents like to wait until school finishes before hitting their kids with this psychological burden.
The Obvious Reason
With all that said, there is another simple explanation for this phenomenon: Taxes. By choosing a date of separation that coincides with the new year, divorcing spouses can seriously simplify their taxes – and many spouses are thankful they took this step once tax season rolls around. Otherwise, they would need to file part of their tax return jointly with their ex. If the breakup was particularly bitter, getting back together with your ex to crunch numbers is not exactly desirable.
By separating in early January, spouses can move out, get comfortable, start becoming financially independent, and then file for divorce in March. This is a common process for many spouses across the United States – and it’s one that numerous divorce attorneys recommend.
Of course, divorces do not always fit into neat schedules. In some cases, choosing a different date of separation and filing date may make more sense.