January is usually reserved for kicking bad habits and beginning work on those New Year’s resolutions. But some parts of the internet, this blog included, have suggested that January has earned it’s nickname as “divorce month.” Is there truth to it? The New York Times recently investigated.
‘Tis the Season?
There is no doubt that divorce is a seasonal phenomenon. From Thanksgiving until New Year’s, lawyers’ offices can slow down with new filings because people have decided to put off until after the holidays their decisions to separate.
A Google trends search for “divorce last year returned that it was – ever so slightly – most popular from January 6th to January 12th. The term has peaked at various times though, from March and September too!
A 2016 study by the University of Washington analyzed divorce filings in Washington state from 2001 to 2015 and found they peaked in March and August, following the winter and summer holidays.
Florida No-fault Divorce
Divorce rates started to increase in the 1970s when baby boomers started divorcing at higher rates and the introduction of no-fault divorce laws.
I’ve written about no fault divorce before. No-fault laws are the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. In Florida no fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.
Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. Gone are the days when you had to prove adultery, desertion or unreasonable behavior as in England.
The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.
Adultery can be the cause of a divorce, but can it impact the outcome? Since Florida became a no-fault state, the fact that, “she (or he) is sleeping with a co-worker” doesn’t hold much traction in court any more.
Some states still have fault-based divorce, and some of the common fault-based grounds for divorce are adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, incarceration for conviction of a crime, institutionalization for mental illness, and a spouse’s continued abuse of drugs or alcohol.
New Year’s Resolution?
Not everyone thinks January is divorce month. Some people think it is a perception of the end of the year slow-down, and that the comparison makes it appear to be a big month for filing.
However, divorce timelines can also be impacted by state. In Georgia, divorces can be granted in as little as one month, or could take years. In California, there is a mandatory six-month waiting period for a divorce to be finalized.
When you file for divorce, you may impact everything financial including taxes. Your marital status on the last day of the year can determine how you file your taxes. If a state has a rule regarding your filing status and separation, that could be a reason for a January filing.
Responsibilities for children, lack of romance, incompatibility and money problems are all big drivers of divorce. Many people feel there is an uptick in divorce filing around anniversaries and Valentine’s Day too. The answer to the question “is January really divorce month?” is, maybe.
The New York Times article is here.