As our loyal readers may know, Eric Solotoff blogs annually about the so-called “New Year’s Resolution Divorce,” where the number of new clients walking through our doors spikes at the beginning of the new year.  There are, most definitely, verifiable statistics to show that this concept is for real.  A new cnn.com article, “In January ‘ex’ marks the spot,” sheds further light on the theory and, interestingly, suggests that the peak for divorces is March.

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The March filing statistics only further confirms the New Year’s phenomenon – new clients first meet with a divorce lawyer in January/February, learn and understand his or her rights and the benefits of filing, strategize, and, perhaps, shortly thereafter file a Complaint for Divorce.   The article was also interesting in that it further fleshed out the reasons why someone might wait to file.

  • Money, Money, Money – People often start fresh in the new year, and, for many people, year-end bonuses have been paid and can be used to fund divorce expenses, whether it be an attorney, mediator, etc.  As for whether those bonuses would be included as part of the “pot” for equitable distribution, many people believe that it will be excluded if he or she files for divorce before the bonus is paid.  The law, however, is not so black and white and will include, at least to some degree/percentage, a bonus that can be deemed as actually having been earned during the marriage, or attributable to so-called marital efforts.  There are several other legal components to such a discussion that we have previously blogged about and will be the topic of future entries.
  • Appearances – The article talks about how no one wants to drop the proverbial “D” bomb around the holidays.  It is certainly understandable that a person considering divorce does not want to tarnish what is supposed to be the happiest time of year for friends and family.  On the other hand, there could be potential legal implications depending on how long you wait to file including, but not limited to, tax filings, assets that are and are not subject to equitable distribution (alluded to above), and more.  Also, sometimes the relationship between you and your spouse is so uncomfortable (or worse), that the holidays may be even worse than if the news had been broken beforehand.  There really is no right answer, but traditional mindsets when it comes to the holidays suggest that appearances is a large part of the reason why people wait to proceed, or, at least learn about his or her options.
  • Emotional Readiness – This ties into appearances.  As a large part of going through a divorce is not only your mindset, but that of your children, being in the right frame of mind is necessary.  It is not just about a New Year’s resolution, since the article also talks about how the other uptick in divorces is after the summer time when school starts.  It is about a fresh start.  A clean slate.  Call it what you will.  It is about the time of year, whenever that may be, when you can focus on what you need to do for yourself, and, potentially, for the children, to ensure that you are ready for a divorce, efforts to reconcile, or whatever it may be to better your situation.
  • Time – Honestly, with everything going on around the holidays, who has time to think about a divorce, let alone file a Complaint.  The same goes for the summer time when people, in a more relaxed way, are traveling, getting the kids ready for the new school year, dealing with camp, and the like.  While the beginning of the new year and after the summer seem like extraordinarily hectic periods of time because we have to focus on getting back to the everyday grind, people seem more willing to find the time to address marital issues when school is in session.

So what does this all mean?  There is definite validity to the phenomenon discussed in Eric’s annual blog posts.  There is also no doubt that the divorce mindset and a return to  everyday life, with holidays and vacations behind you, are connected.

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Robert Epstein is an associate in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Robert practices in the firm’s Roseland, New Jersey office and can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or repstein@foxrothschild.com.