For many divorce attorneys, the busy season starts after the first of the year. Since practically the inception of this blog, I have posted on the phenomenon of the New Year’s Resolution Divorce. For whatever reason, this post has struck a chord and has been well received, cited by other bloggers and caused me to be interviewed to discuss the phenomenon. As such, given that the new year is near, I thought I would share that piece again, updated slightly for the new year.
Over the years, I have noted that the number of new clients spikes a few times of the year, but most significantly right after the new year. Before writing this article for the first time, out of curiosity, I typed “New Years Resolution Divorce” into Google and got 5,590,000 results in .54 seconds . A new Google search yields similar results. While not all of the search results are on point, many were extremely interesting. Year after year, my intuition about this topic continues to be right and that there are several reasons for it.
One article on Salon.com put divorce up there with weight loss on New Years resolution lists. Also cited in this article was that affairs are often discovered around the holidays. Another article linked above attributed it to “new year, new life”.
Another noted that during January, people think about improving their life, losing weight, stopping smoking or drinking, and avoiding another miserable year with their spouse. Also, the Christmas bonus comes just in time to hire a divorce attorney.
Another article claimed that the holidays create a lot of pressures at the end of the year that combine to put stress on people in unhappy or weak relationships. Family, financial woes, etc. associated with the holidays add to the stress. Turning over a new leaf to start over and improve ones life was another reason given. This seems to be a logical explanation for a clearly difficult and perhaps heart wrenching decision.
In my experience, people with children often want to wait until after the holidays for the sake of the children. There is also the hope, perhaps overly optimistic, that the divorce will be completed by the beginning of the next school year. These people tend to be in the “improving ones life” camp.
So as divorce lawyers, we hope to avoid or at least resolve in advance the holiday visitation disputes that inevitably crop up, then relax and enjoy the holiday as we await the busy season to begin.
In the last several years, the phenomena started early for us and many other attorneys. We were contacted by more people in December in the last few years than in any years in recent memory. In some recent years, the calls started in November at a pace more robust than in prior years. Moreover, we have heard of more people telling their spouse it “is over” before the holidays in the past few years. I suspect that in some, it was the discovery/disclosure of a new significant other or perhaps pressure being exerted by that person that was the cause. In other cases, the person just didn’t want to wait until the new year to advise their spouse.
These and many more are probably the reason that some have called January “The Divorce Month.”
In this post in 2019 and 2020, I said:
Those who divorce in 2020 may still enjoy a booming economy and not the slowing economy that many predicted for 2019 and some still predict for 2020. Bad economies historically mean more divorces, either because of the stress it creates or because one or both parties is being opportunistic. On the other hand, someone who might be a support recipient might be opportunistic on the other end of the spectrum – getting out while incomes and asset values are high.
Like last year, the economy is in an interesting place. Inflation remains high but has decreased throughout the year, but jobless rates remain historically low. However, wages are higher too, offsetting some of the impact of inflation (and I heard an economist recently state that if prices reduce, income likely reduces too, and that would be a bad thing). Interest rate hikes have stabilized over the past year and there are predictions of the Fed reducing rates in 2024. Even with interest rates being high, home values also remain high because of limited supply on the market.
Some people feel that this is the perfect time for them to get divorced, perhaps to salvage the increased value of their home, or maybe to buy it out while the value is dropping. People may make their own choices if their or their spouses bonuses and/or values of their businesses are higher or lower.
Whatever the reason, we await those who see 2024 as a chance for happiness or a fresh start. Happy New Year?!?!
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Department of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973) 994-7501, or email@example.com.