Market Watch is reporting on a consistent pattern: divorce filings surge in January as people decide to start their New Year with a clean slate, helped by a stressful holiday period and, perhaps, even more stressful in-laws.
Happy New You
In general, many family lawyers report a rise of nearly one-third in business in the New Year. The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says he typically sees a spike of 25% to 30% every year in January.
That’s not only true for the United States, but around the world. Similar trends are seen in the U.K.: one in five couples plan to divorce after the holidays, according to one survey of 2,000 spouses by legal firm Irwin Mitchell.
Being cooped up in a house for several days when a marriage is experiencing serious problems — while dealing with the pressure to put on a happy face for the kids and visiting relatives — takes its toll on the most stoic of couples.
Holiday time is usually a time when we get a spike in consultations and in being retained by clients. Holiday time is usually fraught with a lot of tension, emotion and financial issues, which is usually the trigger.
I’ve written about the rise in new years divorce filings, and many times the holiday season can highlight problems. What should you do? Whatever the reason for your problems, there are a few things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know to help them through the process.
Line up your priorities for life after the divorce. Is it finding a home? Is it retiring? Getting a job? Managing your special-needs child? Consider writing down your most important goals.
Even if you aren’t certain you need to hire an attorney, or filing for divorce at all, it is a good idea to meet with an expert in Florida’s divorce and family laws. Who better than someone certified by Florida as an expert in marital and family law? We offer free consultations, but even when there is a charge, it is well worth the fee to get accurate information.
Litigation is something to avoid. It’s time-consuming, contentious and expensive. The majority of divorces end up settling. There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution out there, including collaborative divorce, mediation, and informal settlement conferences.
As Market Watch further reports, there is good reason for treating a divorce like a calm business deal. Don’t rush to file. Think about your end game. Many people file quickly out of anger perhaps after learning of a spouse’s misconduct. But it’s better to be strategic.
New Year, New Priorities
If not planned correctly, divorce can be one of the most financially devastating life events, so get an up-to-date assessment of your spouse’s accounts.
“It may be illegal to open another person’s mail, but you can, however, make a note of the financial institution that mails statements. If you give your attorney those names, we can subpoena that information.
Lawyers are cautious about taking on clients who refer to their attorneys as a pit bull or a shark. “Sometimes, people might say that because we’re tough, but if you go in with all guns blazing and start in a mean, aggressive manner, you automatically create a very adversarial situation.
That could increase the cost of the divorce — which could vary between $25,000 to $100,000, depending on the assets involved, the lawyer’s fees and where you live — by double or even triple, he says. “Be courteous and respectful. The key is to avoid escalation.”
It may be that divorce is not the best option, particularly if one partner doesn’t have company health insurance. Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $18,142 this year, up 3% on last year, with workers on average paying $5,277 towards their coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Menlo, Calif.
Premiums for Obamacare are expected to rise 22% next year for the benchmark silver plan. Some health insurers won’t insure both parties on the same policy if the couple has legally separated so people report.
Avoid serving your partner with divorce papers during the holidays, especially if you have children. As they grow older they’ll hate that holiday memory forever. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some preparation in the meantime.
In Florida, you can file for divorce and you have a period of time before you have to serve the papers. Most unhappy spouses wait until after the turkey has been carved, the gifts have been unwrapped, and the new year has started.
The Market Watch article is here.