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January is called 'Divorce Month': Resolutions, fresh starts and had enoughs

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Eric Solotoff is the co-chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP.
Eric Solotoff is the co-chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP.

Over the last decade or so, January has come to be known as “Divorce Month” due to the jump in divorce filings during the month, more so than any other month of the year. This phenomena is proven objectively, by the number of filings and anecdotally, by the number of new clients typically seen by divorce attorneys during January.

Over the years, I have noted that the number of new clients spikes a few times of the year, but most significantly right after the new year. Out of curiosity, I typed "New Year’s Resolution Divorce" into Google and got 2.35 million results in .45 seconds, curiously up from 540,000 results that I got when Googling this search 6 or 7 years ago. While not all of the search results were on point, many were extremely interesting. It turns out that my intuition about this topic was right and that there are several reasons for it.

One article on Salon.com put divorce up there with weight loss on New Year’s resolution lists. Also cited in this article was that affairs are often discovered around the holidays. Another article linked above attributed it to “new year, new life”. Another article claimed that the holidays create a lot of pressures at the end of the year that combine to put stress on people in unhappy or weak relationships. Family, financial woes, etc. associated with the holidays add to the stress. Turning over a new leaf to start over and improve one’s life was another reason given. This seems to be a logical explanation for a clearly difficult and perhaps heart wrenching decision.

People with children often want to wait until after the holidays for the sake of the children. There is also the hope, perhaps overly optimistic, that the divorce will be completed by the beginning of the next school year. These people tend to be in the “improving one’s life” camp.

Other people wait until the end of the year or, if married to someone who works on Wall Street who gets their bonus in the first quarter, to make sure that the bonus is in the pot or available for payment of various things, like their lawyers for the divorce.

Though most people are not that tax savvy, and divorces usually are not completed that quickly, taxes could be a consideration as well. You can only file a joint tax return if you are still married on Dec. 31 so for some, filing status could be a consideration in the timing.

In recent years, we have seen more and more clients in November or December who are seeking to learn about their rights and the process and what they need to do to prepare for the divorce that they intend on commencing not long after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.  However, more and more, we have heard of people telling their spouse it “is over” before the holidays. I suspect that in some, it was the discovery/disclosure of a new significant other or perhaps pressure being exerted by that person that was the cause. In other cases, the person just didn’t want to wait until the new year to advise their spouse, perhaps a zinger to ruin their holiday and share the pain that they are feeling.

The fresh start and minimizing impact on the children are also reasons that the second “busy season” as it were, is in September, after the summer and once the children are back to school.  Parents do not want to impact the children’s summers or start the process when the kids are out of school (though this seems somewhat counter-intuitive), and are hopeful that by the end of the school year, their fate for the next school year will be resolved.

Whatever the reason, we await those who see 2017 as a chance for happiness or a fresh start. Happy New Year?!

Eric Solotoff is the co-chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP and the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Solotoff is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland and Morristoww offices though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501 or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.

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