New Year, New Life: Why Divorce Rates Rise in January

By Randall M. Kessler

The end of the year is always a mixed blessing. We are family law attorneys meaning we represent people going through divorce and related matters. At the end of each year, our business slows down (which is good), but then it always increases in January as divorce filings are regularly at their height after the start of the year. What’s interesting is the interest in the rise of divorce each January.

I worked with the WSJ’s Market Watch reporter Quentin Fottrell who wrote about this and made some interesting points. WABE, Atlanta’s Public Radio Station also did a story on this subject. The media seem interested in trends and this may be a trend, but it is more likely a very predictable cycle.

Many people want to start from scratch when the new year arrives. Many do not want to be “in the same place,” mentally or physically for the next holiday season, so they “start,” they file or they consult with a divorce lawyer in early January. But those with whom we meet in January are often already committed to going through with a divorce. Most do not come in just to understand what a divorce may mean for them (which could be extremely helpful). In fact, a relatively small percentage of people filing for divorce plan ahead for it. And maybe that is good (it would not be good to spend your life planning for divorce). But planning ahead can help. Divorce may sometimes be inevitable, yet it can often be accomplished with more forethought and caring. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is right on target here. For those considering divorce, or those who fear it is imminent, why not get knowledgeable? Do your homework, prepare, consult with experts (CPA’s therapists, lawyers) just to know what you MIGHT be facing. Isn’t that better than hiring a professional AFTER you have been served with divorce papers? What you may learn by meeting with professionals, is that you truly want to re-double your efforts to avoid a divorce. If that is what you take away from such a meeting, isn’t that worth it? And if a divorce ultimately happens, at least you will have had more time than most to consider how to respond, what to seek and how to endure it.

No, divorce is not something to look forward to, but I believe the cliché “An ounce of prevention…” is much better than the one about the ostrich who puts his head in the sand to avoid the danger. Being realistic and taking time to digest as many of the potential aspects and pitfalls that exist and preparing for how to deal with them can hopefully ease the process and make a very difficult time, perhaps a little better or at least more tolerable. The worst cases I see, are those invoking yet another old cliché, the ones where I hear “this just came out of left field” and while divorce is often devastating, being unprepared for it can make it even worse. If you are one who starts (or receives a request for) a divorce in January, work hard to keep it amicable. It can be done, and it is worth it. And if you think that it may happen down the road, get prepared. Divorces do happen, and they happen a lot in January.