Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

Why Do Divorces Increase After the Holidays?

The holidays are a time for family traditions and togetherness, but can too much togetherness trigger increased divorce rates? According to studies, divorce rates spike after both winter holidays and summer vacations. If the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year” and the “ha-happiest season of all,” then why do they tend to break fragile marriages?

By the beginning of each new year, the divorce rate in the U.S. climbs by nearly one-third. Is this trend only due to New Year’s resolutions to begin new paths and say goodbye to the old, or is there more to the seasonal divorce rate?

Post Holiday Divorce Statistics

January is known as “divorce month” to divorce attorneys and family lawyers. Do these “New Year’s Resolution divorces really exist as a trackable trend in the United States? Research suggests that they do, not only in the United States but also in the U.K.

  • One study shows an increase in divorces by over one-third in January
  • A MarketWatch survey of lawyers revealed most divorce attorneys report a 25% to 30% rise in divorce cases after Christmas
  • A stunning U.K. poll of over 2,000 married spouses reported that one out of five couples polled plan to divorce after the holidays

Not only do divorces increase after the holidays, but some spouses use the holidays themselves as a time to file for divorce in order to add an element of hurtful spite to a contentious situation.

Postponing the Inevitable for the Holidays

While it may seem that Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays cause the breakup of marriages, studies show that most post-holiday divorces don’t appear out of nowhere like something Santa left under the tree. Instead, one major reason divorce rates climb after the holidays is that many spouses already headed for divorce court postpone making the move until after Christmas. This occurs for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Wishing to remain together for the holidays for the sake of their children
  • Staying together for the holidays due to pre-existing plans for family traveling to visit relatives
  • Avoiding questions from gathered family members during holiday celebrations or not wishing to disrupt family holiday plans and gatherings
  • For tax purposes—by separating before December 31st, spouses can file their taxes separately for the following year
  • Prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements may include clauses that take effect after a specific number of years passes, resulting in financial incentives to separate before the end of the year

Even after one or both spouses reach the conclusion that divorce is inevitable, many spouses decide to stick it out until after the holidays for one or more of the above reasons with the intention of filing for divorce in the new year.

Holiday Stress May Be the Last Straw

According to the American Psychiatric Association, one-third of Americans report a significant rise in stress over the holiday season. If a couple is experiencing tension in their marriage, the stress and strain of holiday spending, parties, events, travel, and visiting family members might cause their relationship problems to peak to a level beyond return, prompting one or both to file a petition for divorce after the holiday season ends. Arguing about overspending, whose family to spend the holiday with, or whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie takes a significant toll on an already floundering marriage.

Facing a new year may inspire those who’ve been unhappy in their marriage to take that final step—viewing it as a relief to move forward after the stress, anxiety, and exhaustion that typically accompanies the holiday season.

Out With The Old… New Year’s Resolutions May Increase Divorce Rates

The beginning of a new year is a well-known time for introspection and setting new goals for the future. Often these goals involve a greater focus on self-care, including dieting, drinking less alcohol, improving physical fitness, or establishing a better budget. For those with persistent problems in their marriage, self-care may include a desire to leave a hurtful, distressing, or unsatisfying marital situation. With the new year may come thoughts of creating a “new you,” with divorce as a first step. New home purchases, new gym memberships, and new car sales and leases all increase each January as well. Because many people view the start of a new year as a good time for a fresh start, it’s often a time for big decisions. Sadly, divorcing a spouse is a big decision that’s often made after the holidays when people are ready to leave the old behind and embrace a new start.

While a divorce is never a cause for celebration, if the marriage isn’t working and both spouses are unhappy, choosing to divorce in January may be the best option for their mental health and future well-being.

Hoping for a Christmas Miracle for Their Marriage

Many couples facing relationship problems hope that the joy of the holiday season will repair the problems in their marriage. Planning to rekindle romance while kindling the winter fire below the hung stockings may incentivize spouses to remain together for the season. Planning family outings, romantic holiday getaways, and extravagant gift exchanges all may become a last attempt to save a failing marriage.

Often, the incentive of trying to repair a struggling marriage over the holidays only places additional stress and unrealistic expectations on an already tension-filled season, resulting in the decision to divorce at the end of the holidays.

While we always hope for a happily-ever-after ending for all marriages, sadly, sometimes life intervenes in a couple’s plans. The holidays may end up a make-or-break situation for spouses facing marital problems.

Despite the many romantic holiday movies available during the winter season, the tension of the more realistic holiday seasons most people face is not the best way to focus on improving a strained relationship.

No matter the reason for choosing the post-holiday season for a divorce, it’s always important to seek both emotional counseling and experienced legal counsel during the divorce process.