Why Is January a Popular Month to File for Divorce?

Many California divorce attorneys refer to January as the beginning of “divorce season.” For many reasons, January typically sees a surge in divorce filings, sometimes as high as one-third more than the rest of the year. It is important to understand why this occurs and acknowledge the potential benefits and drawbacks of divorcing in January.

Preserving the Holiday Season

One of the most practical reasons most divorcing couples cite for waiting until January to start the divorce process is keeping the holiday season free from the stress and tensions that divorce often creates in families. This is especially true for divorcing couples with children; ideally, a divorcing couple will set aside their differences for the holiday season so they do not ruin what should be a festive and enjoyable time of year, especially for kids.

Additionally, the holiday season is difficult for most types of legal issues. Attorneys want to spend time with their families, too, and many of the professionals involved in a typical divorce process may take vacation time during December to enjoy the holidays. Waiting until January also often inspires reflection, encouraging a divorcing couple to take time for introspection concerning the aspects of their marriage they believe are failing. In some cases, it can simply be cathartic for a divorcing couple to spend “one last Christmas” together as a family.

When the Holidays Are the Last Straw

On the other hand, January could also be peak divorce season due to the stress of the holiday season. A couple that has already had marital issues may see those tensions boil over due to the stress that often accompanies holiday gatherings, traveling to see relatives, and buying gifts for friends and family. The holiday season can sometimes be the final straw that pushes a couple toward divorce.

Tax Implications

Marital status heavily influences tax obligations, and waiting until the start of a new year can help ease the tax issues associated with divorce. Typically, if a couple remains married for even a single day of a year, the couple can still file their taxes as a married couple filing jointly. This has the benefit of easing the divorcing couple’s tax burden for the year while allowing them to start handling their individual finances.

Financial Concerns

For any California divorce, the date of separation and the actual date of the divorce trial are important dates when it comes to the valuation of assets. For example, if one spouse usually earns a significant year-end bonus, then it would be beneficial for the other spouse to delay divorce proceedings until after the other spouse received that bonus so it would count as community property.

The end of the calendar year can also mean an influx of updated paperwork and financial statements like pay stubs, loan statements, investment account statements, and more. Having fresh copies of the most up-to-date financial information can help a couple move the divorce process along more smoothly.

Planning for a Divorce in the New Year

Many couples find all sorts of reasons to wait until the start of a new year to start divorce proceedings. They may simply want to ensure a more equitable division of property or secure their rights to community property. It is also possible that they simply do not want to deal with the stress of a divorce case during the holidays, for their own sakes or the sake of their children. Ultimately, a divorce attorney can help a spouse expecting a divorce determine the most beneficial timeline for starting divorce proceedings that works for all parties involved.