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January is National Divorce Month

Updated: Jan 7

It seems we have a National Month for almost everything. In addition to all of the monthly observances that honor virtually every ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, creed, belief and religion there are a host of other monthly celebrations including, for example, National Bird-Feeding Month, National Mustache Month, National Pet Month, National Pizza Month, National Bike Month, National Ice Cream Month, not to mention, National Explosive Ordinance Disposal Day.

So is it any wonder that Divorce has its own Month - the Month of January. Not only is it now formally recognized as such, but also there are reasons and statistics to support the notion that January is a big month for those seeking to leave their marriages.

Speak to any seasoned divorce lawyer and you will find that telephone calls and requests for divorce consultations begin to drop off in the period between November and December. This was certainly a trend which I saw in my 40-year divorce practice.

During November and December, nothing could be heard in my office but crickets. But come January, the floodgates opened and the telephones in my office began ringing off the hook. On top of that, there were the desperate pleas from potential clients for the first consultation date available - "Can you see me today?"

But why? First and foremost, very few spouses want to pull out the divorce card as the holidays approach in order to cushion the blow to the other spouse or the children. Silently, some think to themselves; “let’s have one more happy holiday together, or if we can’t manage that, at least one less unhappy holiday.”

However, once January rolls around, the "silently unhappy spouse" who wants the divorce moves to “full speed ahead.” In one famous New York divorce case, the husband got an early jump on the process and actually had his wife served with the divorce papers on Christmas Day. “Sorry, honey, but I didn’t know what else to get you, so I got you a divorce summons and complaint, charging you with cruel and inhuman treatment. I hope you like it!”

The reasons for this phenomenon are multi-faceted. Ironically, the stress of the Festive Season can actually hasten the demise of the marital relationship. During this holiday season families end up spending much more personal time with each other and traveling substantial distances to be with each other. The stress of travel and the 24/7 up-close, extended, multi-day get-togethers often do not necessarily produce feelings of love and contentment. Just the opposite.

We saw this phenomenon with the Covid epidemic when married couples, along with their children, were quarantining together for weeks and the divorce rate subsequently shot up. Moreover, when the holidays fail to measure up to that fairly-tale "Hallmark Christmas Card" we are often left deflated, anxious and unhappy. And the reason for these unwanted negative feelings - "it must be you - it's not me."

Indeed, some social scientists have suggested that the holidays often create unrealistic standards about what the holidays should be like, and that can amplify people's feelings of anxiety and depression. When this happens, we start believing that everyone else is living perfect lives with perfect relationships. Everyone except me!!! Now where did I put the telephone number of that divorce lawyer.

Sometimes, the reason for the New Year divorce greeting is economic. For example, if your spouse just received the year-end bonus from his or her employer, filing the divorce case early in the year not only ensures that the bonus is "marital property" but also ensures that it gets preserved for future division in the divorce action. On the other side of this financial coin, the filing of the divorce action also means that any subsequently acquired assets (new businesses, pension contributions, real estate, etc.) are "my separate property" and outside of the marital estate.

Finally, there are other economic pressures. Now that we have purchased mountains of toys, that brand new car with the big red bow on the top ("thanks, honey, but I wanted a blue car") the jewelry and the Rolex watches, the post-holiday credit card bills start pouring in and we are left with the thought "what was I thinking?" For many people the answer is to get off this sinking ship before these bills pull us under. Also, tax season is coming in April and I do not want to sign another bogus tax return prepared by my spouse.

Wait!! Stop!! I am sorry. I wanted to finish writing this blog but I have to stop here. My telephone is ringing off the hook and I have five new consultations scheduled for today.

On a serious note, anyone who is thinking about a divorce or is in the middle of one should purchase my book "An Elephant Doesn't Marry a Giraffe - Everything I Learned As A Divorce Attorney". It is not only filled with amazing stories but also invaluable advice about how to achieve the best possible outcomes in your divorce case.


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