By Linda N.
The United States ranks as the country with the sixth highest divorce rate in the world, with an average of over 2 million divorces per year, calculated at the rate of 200 dissolved marriages per hour, granted every 13 seconds.
Did you also know that individual states and not federal law apply to divorce within the United States? For instance, there are variations by the state in the divorce process serving requirements, waiting periods/cooling-off periods, property distribution, divorce filing fees, child support, legal separation requirements, and so on. California insists on six months and a one-day cooling-off period. Nevada can dissolve a marriage within six weeks. Florida has one of the highest filing fees for divorce in America and New York bars serving divorce papers on Saturday and Sunday if the couple observes a religious holiday.
There is evidence that divorce rates have significantly dropped over the years by 8%, according to CDC; specifically, there have been fewer divorces and annulments between 2007 and 2017. Plausible explanations for this observation are the changes in attitudes towards marriage, especially between the Baby Boomers generation and the millennial/generation X. However, one trend that has not declined is the high volume of divorce filings that takes place within January every year. Online media sites like Google trends and Pinterest reveal a significant increase in divorce, especially within the first two weeks of January.
Possible Reasons for January Divorces
Anecdotal data have shown that dates between January 6th and January 12th record the highest days for divorce filings, which has led to January identified within legal circles as the month of divorce. Divorce does not take place overnight, and most divorced couples started pursuing the dissolution of their marriage before the time of filing the papers. The myth surrounding January as a divorce month can be associated with a few considerations from the emotional, logical, psychological, and economic perspectives.
Consistent with the findings of some researchers, cultural celebrations and expectations often influence the decision to delay taking a decisive action to dissolve a marriage. Researchers like Julie Brines and Brian Serafini found what to be the first evidence of a pattern of filing for divorce and seasons. In their study, they found a significant increase in divorce filing cases between March and August, specifically the periods after winter and summer holidays; however, after August, the number of divorce filings dropped until after December. They claim that the winter and summer holidays are culturally sacred times for most families. Therefore, most couples with children often delay filing for a divorce until after festivities like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, which are all family celebrations. They do this for emotional reasons since they want to give their children their last memory as a happy family.
Similarly, the associated high-stress level caused by the financial demand and incompatibility endured during the Christmas festivities often serves as a trigger for the actual action to file for divorce among strained couples. For couples who are thinking about divorce, the most plausible time to file a divorce falls within the week of January 5th up to two weeks after. Typically, this is the period when professionals such as lawyers, judges, and other agencies required to initiate the divorce process, return to work after the festivities. Consequently, practical/logistic reasons contribute to the timing.
Another possible explanation is the psychological association between the beginning of the year and our desire to have a new start. The New Year is a time when we make resolutions, and often, people resolve to live a better life, with a focus on eliminating stress. Relationships are considered a stressor, and most emotionally strained couples usually identify their relationship with a partner as a stressful situation. Thus, the beginning of the year serves as an excellent time to start anew, when people work towards eliminating any obstacle towards their happiness. The filing of divorce papers often serves as a determined effort towards achieving the desire to live a happier and fulfilling life.
Finally, financial gains from payments and tax cuts can be of consideration to either couple seeking for dissolution; consequently, the economic benefit might be a marginal reason.
Causes of Divorce
While any or some of these factors might be contributing to the high rise of divorce filings in January, several factors lead to divorce. Research findings show that most marriages after eight years are more likely to end in a divorce; issues like absence of commitment (identified as the most common reason for a divorce), constant arguments, and accusations of infidelity were also frequently identified. Other matters, such as having unrealistic expectations, getting married too young, feelings of inequality within the relationship, and not being adequately prepared for marriage, are also contributing factors. Interestingly, domestic violence or abuse was the least ranked factor mentioned. Also, other sociocultural factors that influence divorce include the couple’s level of religiosity/morality. Couples who consider themselves liberal-minded are more likely to get divorced quicker than others. Furthermore, couples who are products of broken homes and the couple’s age before marriage also indicated as factors. The younger the couple is at the time of marriage, the more likely they will file for a divorce as the marriage progresses, not to mention the level of compatibility.
Effect of Divorce
In the event of a divorce, issues may include child custody, child support, alimony/spousal support, and in some cases, distribution of joint property, to mention a few problems that are addressed by the presiding judge. In most cases, the dissolution of marriages often leaves scars that vary in magnitude on the couple and their children.
While some people may be able to move on after a divorce without regrets or scars, no divorce can take place without leaving a mark. Economically, most women are often hard hit by most divorces, especially among low-income socioeconomic class families. Women, left with the custody of their children from the marriage, struggle financially, despite the payment of child support. The family never remains the same; the quality of life for the woman and her children declines.
Psychologically, the children are often the worst hit. Most times, they contend with suppressed feelings of anger, guilt, and sadness. Such feelings are often unresolved and remain with the children as they grow and become adults. Unresolved emotions manifest in relationships and can lead to a repeat of the past in the form of failed relationships and, eventually, their divorces.
Conclusively, irrespective of the month a couple decides to file for divorce, divorce is expensive, not just in terms of the financial cost as emotional, psychological, and other effects have a far-reaching impact that goes beyond January or any other month. The price paid by all involved goes beyond the individual into the community and the larger society. Before seeking a divorce, couples should explore other options like counseling, therapy, and temporary separation. Only after these and other options have been explored, should divorce be considered as a last resort.
In the event, that you do need a divorce, it’s important to hire the right attorney whether the divorce is amicable or not. Rest assured, your spouse will be hiring an attorney to seek their best interest. The Law Firm of Figeroux & Associates reminds you: Don’t divorce your money or your kids; divorce your spouse. For a FREE case evaluation, call 855-682-9489 or visit www.askthelawyer.us.