Why So Many People File For Divorce In January

January is now formally recognized as Divorce Month.

Couple divorcing month of January fotostorm, pixelshot | Canva 

We have a National Month for almost everything.

In addition to all of the monthly observances that honor a variety of groups, there are a host of other monthly celebrations including 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.

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January is now formally recognized as Divorce Month and there are reasons to support the notion.

Speak to any seasoned divorce lawyer, and you will hear about telephone calls and requests for divorce consultations drop off between November and December. This was a trend that 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 desperate pleas from potential clients for the first consultation date available - "Can you see me today?"


Four big reasons so many people file for divorce in January 

1. Very few spouses want to ask for a divorce during the holidays

To cushion the blow to the other spouse or the children, they silently think, “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 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 treatment. I hope you like it!”

banner for January divorce month

Photo via Shutterstock


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2. The holiday season can be extremely stressful 

Ironically, the stress of the festival season can hasten the demise of the marital relationship. During the holidays, families spend much more personal time with each other and travel 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 in 2020, when married couples, along with their children, were quarantining together for weeks, and the divorce rate 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 believe everyone has perfect lives with perfect relationships. Everyone except me!!! Now, where did I put the telephone number of that divorce lawyer?


3. People wait for their partner's holiday bonus to come through.

If your spouse received the year-end bonus from their employer, then filing the divorce case early in the year ensures the bonus is "marital property" and 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 wealth (new businesses, pension contributions, real estate, etc.) is "my separate property" and outside of the marital estate.



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4. 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, the Rolex watches, and 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, but I have to stop here. After all, it's January and my telephone is ringing off the hook, and I already have five new divorce consultations scheduled for January.

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Ronald Bavero is a highly regarded divorce attorney, legal educator, and author of the critically acclaimed, five-star book, “An Elephant Doesn’t Marry A Giraffe – Everything I Learned As A Divorce Attorney.” He also maintains a website of information and valuable articles about the process of divorce and separation.