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Why lawyers say January is ‘divorce month’

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Each January, many resolve to join a gym. Or to finally give up smoking. Many others, it seems, resolve to end their marriage.

January has been nicknamed “divorce month” because of an uptick in activity for divorce lawyers after the new year. While anecdotal evidence abounds, hard figures are more elusive. An analysis of national divorce filings between 2008 and 2011 by legal information website FindLaw.com found a spike in January and a gradual rise until a peak in late March.

In Massachusetts, the second quarter (April to June) saw the most divorce filings in the years 2012 through 2014, according to numbers provided by state courts. Robert Rivers Jr., president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a partner at Lee & Rivers LLP, says a reason for this could be that many couples are able to work out a divorce agreement before filing.

The uptick in activity in January is “a trend in probably every office I’m aware of,” Rivers says. “People do an emotional inventory at the end of the year, and the new year brings an opportunity to make those decisions.”

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John Roncone III, of Roncone Law Offices, P.C. in Leominster, says couples with children will often wait until after the holidays to start the divorce process.

“I think some people try to get through the holidays as a family unit, and then after, we see an increase in people either asking questions or ready to take action,” he says. “People have so much going on during the holidays in terms of work commitments, shopping, and other obligations, and they don’t want to add more stress.”

A stronger economy this year might also play a role in more January divorce inquiries. Janet Miller Wiseman, a Lexington-based divorce and family mediator and psychotherapist, says she received an “overwhelming amount of calls” after this new year, but adds that this is an anomaly at her practice.

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“From January to the exact date of April 15 is typically a very low period in terms of people inquiring about divorce mediation,” she says. The reason for this, she says, is people generally want to know where they stand financially before pursuing divorce. Yet with the economy improving, people may be less inclined to wait.

Divorce isn’t the only change that dissatisfied couples explore after the new year. Karen Ruskin, a marriage and family therapist in Sharon, says she also sees an influx of couples seeking help. For people who are considering divorce, she says, it’s important to separate “your logical and intellectual voice” from “your emotional mind” to arrive at a decision.

Separating your thoughts from your emotions and evaluating both clearly, she says, will help you determine what you can accept within the marriage and what you can improve upon, or if divorce is the best option.