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For many years, January was widely considered “Divorce Month” by divorce attorneys who experienced a dramatic uptick in business immediately following the holiday season. But, according to a new analysis of divorce filings and searches for divorce-related information on the Internet, March is the true “Divorce Month.”
According to FindLaw.com, the No. 1 website for free consumer-focused legal information with more than 5.1 million visits per month, searches for “divorce” and related phrases such as “family law” and “child custody” jumped 50 percent – from just over 10,000 in December 2010 to nearly 16,000 in January 2011, and continued to surge through March. “Divorce” has been the No. 1 searched term on FindLaw.com since February 2010.
Along these same lines, FindLaw.com analyzed divorce filings across the U.S. between 2008 and 2011 with Westlaw, the leading legal research database. The analysis revealed that divorces spike in January, continue to rise and peak in late March.
Mark Ohnstad, an attorney with the Minneapolis law firm Thomsen Nybeck, says there may be several important factors as to why January is such a key time of year for seeking divorce information.
“While they’ve been thinking about divorce for some time, and taking steps such as obtaining marital counseling to save their marriage, many men and women may put off their decision to file to avoid additional stress during the holiday season,” says Ohnstad, who has more than 30 years of experience. “Couples with children may want to have one last holiday season together as a family.”
For others, the stress of in-laws, money troubles and career challenges coupled with the pressures to “be happy” during the holidays leads some men and women to cheat on their spouses during this time.
A study on holiday depression noted that of those who cheat on their spouses, 56 percent of men and 42 percent of women do so during the holiday season, says leading marriage therapist Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author of Make Up, Don’t Break Up. These affairs may trigger post-New Year’s divorce filings by spouses who discover the affairs or by the cheating spouse who now wants to end the marriage.
Another reason that many people delay divorce until after the holidays is related to income taxes, adds Ohnstad. Your marital status as of December 31 determines whether you’ll file a joint or an individual return for the prior year.
If you’re considering filing for divorce, here are nine tips from FindLaw.com to consider:
1. Can your marriage be saved? Divorce is expensive, and can have an emotional toll for you and your children that can last for years. Ask yourself if you’ve done everything possible to avoid divorce, including seeking marriage or mental health counseling for yourself as well as for you and your spouse.
2. Have a plan. Become familiar with your state’s divorce laws. Some states have cooling-off periods that can last as long as six months. You’ll need to figure out how you will begin the separation process, how you’ll keep your kids secure and safe and how you’ll get by financially.
3. Build a support network. Divorce is also hard on those close to you – your family and friends. So don’t rely on them alone to get you through this transition. Seek out support groups for divorced persons through a nearby church or other community organization.
4. Save, save, save. Divorce is not cheap. Besides legal fees, you’ll need extra cash on hand to establish a new household. In addition, you should anticipate disagreements with your spouse about who pays what bills.
5. Hire an experienced divorce attorney. Seek the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney for the expertise you need to protect your interests throughout the process. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand the best way to approach a divorce filing based on your state’s divorce laws.
6. Protect your safety. Filing for a divorce can unleash powerful, angry and potentially violent feelings and reactions. Before you file, think about how your spouse may react, and make a plan to protect your safety and the safety of your children. If there is a history of violence in your family, act with extreme caution.
7. Put your kids first. It’s critical to reassure your children they are not at fault because mom and dad are divorcing. It’s also essential to make sure both parents tell the children that they’re loved. And as angry as you might be, it’s important not to badmouth your spouse in front of your children.
8. Get your papers in order. Before you file, get all important papers in order, make copies and start a file. You should know the status of all financial accounts and assets – checking and savings accounts, debts, the sources and amount of income entering the home each month, mortgage papers and proof of ownership of all other important assets.
9. Take stock. Before you file, take an inventory of all personal and joint assets, including jewelry, family heirlooms and other personal items. It is not uncommon for personal items to suddenly “go missing” before a divorce is complete.