Updated: Feb 17
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. Why? Because most spouses are reluctant to push the “exit button” prior to Christmas, Hanukah or the other religious year-end holidays. But come January the flood-gates open and the phones in a divorce law firm begin ringing off the hook. So much so that January has been installed as the National Divorce Month.
The reasons for this phenomenon are multi-varied. As suggested above, 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.” But once January arrives, the spouse who wants the divorce moves to “full speed ahead.”
Of course, other divorcing parties give little consideration to the feelings and sensitivities of their spouses. A famous New York divorce case started when the husband 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. I hope you like it!”
In one of the divorce cases which I personally handled, the wife had the husband - my client, served with divorce papers on Valentine’s Day. After all “chocolates and flowers are gone in a few days but a divorce is something that lasts forever.” Of course, this intentional dig by the wife became one of the central themes of the case and I was quick to remind the judge whenever we appeared before him; “You remember this case, Your Honor, this is the one where the wife served my client with a divorce summons on Valentine’s Day.”
Sometimes, the reason for the New Year divorce greeting is economic. For example, if your spouse just received the year-end bonus from his 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 coin, the filing of the divorce action also means that any subsequently acquired assets (new businesses, pension contributions, real estate, etc.) are outside of the marital estate.
Finally, among the reasons for the post-holiday divorce greeting, one which I have personally witnessed is that disastrous and disappointing Christmas gift. “Really?!”, says the wife, “you got me a tool box instead of the gold necklace I asked for – We’re done!”