The new year will likely bring a change in marital status for many couples. Co-operative Legal Services is anticipating a 332% rise in divorce inquiries in January compared with the previous four months.
This is actually a common trend. In many legal circles January is often referred to as “divorce month,” as it typically sees the most divorce filings. Some even go a step further, citing the first working day in January as “D-Day.” According to the Legal Services Commission, the first Monday after the kids return to school sees more divorce filings than any other day during the year.
Perhaps this makes sense. The holiday season is often stressful both emotionally and financially on families, and the new year offers a chance for many couples to start over on their own.
“We have the stressors of the holiday season, and the financial stressors that come during the fourth quarter,” said Cordell & Cordell divorce attorney Samuel Sanchez.
“Everybody wants a fresh start at the beginning of the year. People say, ‘If I’m going to get a fresh start, cutting ties is a good way to do it. … People have spent significant amounts of time off over the holidays together, and when that happens, that has a tendency to produce some angst.”
However, according to Co-operative Legal Services, holiday pressure is rarely the cause of these breakups. In fact, the holidays tend to delay when couples divorce.
In a survey of 500 divorcees, 43% said they held off divorcing until after the holidays because they didn’t want to spoil the celebrations. A third said they wanted to have one final Christmas together and a tenth didn’t want to upset others.
This is a mature way for parents to help their kids through the holidays. So long as you can put your personal differences aside for a few weeks, there’s no reason to rush to split up and spoil what is usually the happiest time of year for children.
Of course, there are practical considerations to take into account when deciding when to file for divorce. The date that you file will determine your tax filing status.
Most couples’ status will be determined on December 31. If they are still married on that day, they can file as “married, filing jointly.” That entitles them to advantages such as exclusion limits for capital gain on the sale of a principle residence.
Couples can also file under this status even if they’re living separately and if their divorce started prior to the end of the year.
You will want to keep in mind that if you file jointly you will be liable in the event of an audit.