While the holiday season is usually marked by love and celebration, it is for many couples the last hurrah in a marriage that has run its course. As new calendars go up, many people are seriously contemplating, investigating, and even choosing to pursue divorce in the new year.
Although the actual number of people filing for divorce doesn’t necessarily spike in January, family lawyers do tend to see increased activity beginning in January. Spouses inquire about legal representation and the process for initiating divorce. They begin to take stock of their finances and other logistical concerns relating to a potential new family structure. And, by spring, the number of new divorce filings reflects the preliminary legwork done starting in the new year.
Why Do People Choose to Divorce in the New Year?
The new year often brings with it a hopeful outlook and aspirations to make positive life changes. The motto “A New Year, A New You” captures a commonly held notion that inspires people’s desire to make a fresh start. New Year’s resolutions are one such way many people try to impart new habits, routines, and positive change in their lives.
Remedying an unhappy marriage may fall squarely in people’s fresh start column. And, when there are children involved, it is not uncommon for parents to delay the pursuit of divorce proceedings in earnest until after the holidays. In fact, many experts cite spouses’ desire to have a last holiday season as a family before beginning the process of unwinding the marriage.
In other cases, financial considerations may drive the decision to see one calendar year through to the end before pursuing divorce. For example, a spouse may want the entire year’s financial picture to be considered in the divorce process. Waiting to ring in the new year might enable end-of-year work bonuses to pay out, stock options to vest, or some other financial asset or transaction to come to bare. Similarly, tax implications may drive the timing of pursuing divorce, too.
Regardless of the ultimate driver of divorce, the data shows people pursue divorce in the new year over other times during the year. A 2016 study out of the University of Washington showed that over a 14-year period between 2001 and 2015, the divorce rate began to climb in January and reached its peak for the year by March. The delay in peak divorce filings until March may reflect, in part, the time it takes to seek counsel, obtain representation, and get one’s arms around their financial situation ahead of filing.
Preparing for Divorce
Whether the new year inspires you to make a fresh start and seek divorce or you choose to delay divorce for a while, there are things you can do to prepare.
First, it’s important to consider whether you will need or want to be represented by an attorney. If you have children, substantial assets, or are in a contentious relationship, a lawyer may be necessary to help you best advocate for your interests. On the other hand, if there are no children involved or your finances are relatively limited or straight-forward, and you have a decent relationship with your spouse, you may be able to forgo full legal representation. In such cases, you may choose to represent yourself, file jointly without a lawyer, or obtain limited legal assistance as appropriate. At Nicol Gersch Petterson, we offer options including full legal representation and a DIY option with limited legal assistance through our collaboration with Hello Divorce. To help you make a decision about whether to retain a lawyer or seek some DIY option, we recommend you consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney who can provide guidance on the issue.
Second, it’s helpful to take stock of your financial situation, both as a married couple and what your own finances might look like once you’re divorced. It’s better to have some sense of what splitting assets and debts could look like and what your own financial future might reasonably be before heading straight into the divorce process. Undoubtedly, the lawyer you consult or retain to represent you will have questions about your financial situation, so being armed with information will be important. Going into the divorce process with your eyes wide open can only help the process go more smoothly and minimize big surprises along the way.
An experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate these preparations and more. Once you make the decision to seek a divorce, arming yourself with information and support is crucial. Whether you’re looking to make a fresh start in the new year or are simply ready to begin investigating the process of getting divorced, talking to an experienced family law attorney is an important place to start. Choosing to pursue a divorce in the new year may be just the thing you need to embark upon that new YOU.
Need Legal Help?
If you are in need of criminal defense or family law help, consider reaching out to Nicol Gersch Petterson for a free 30-minute consultation. Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.
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