For everything, there is a season. And for family law attorneys, the beginning of the year is the season for divorces. Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates sees a significant jump in divorce filings in January and February. There are many, many reasons.
Blame it on New Year’s Resolutions
Some couples, that may have been unhappy for a while, decide to usher in the New Year with a life-changing resolution – divorce.
Be prepared: Filing for divorce may seem like a fresh start. Just remember the process of divorcing can take time. Although the end goal of not being married may be enticing, make sure that you are prepared that filing for divorce may not bring immediate relief. Wayne-Spindler advises people preparing for divorce to assemble a strong support crew for the coming months. You will need friends to vent to, babysitters, a temporary “escape,” an understanding work environment, a compassionate attorney and a therapist.
Blame it on the holidays
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the holiday season impacts everyone. Shops are busy, colorful lights are everywhere. There is time off of school and work. People are giving gifts and cards. There are parties and sweets. New Year’s Eve brings expectations of dancing, staying up late, kissing and drinking champagne. Even New Year’s Day brings Bowl Games and nachos. So after the first of the year, some people who have been on a social cloud nine may feel like there is nothing to look forward to. Their spouse may be less garrulous without a beer, or less dazzling in sweats than a cocktail gown.
Be prepared: Unless there are underlying problems that are unsolvable, the temporary let-down after Christmas is just that – temporary. Don’t forget the permanence of divorce. Even if you intend for it to be amicable, just the process of hiring lawyers and battling over custody and assets can make small problems, big problems. Perhaps try therapy for a finite time. Some couples find that they are both feeling the same post-holiday disappointment. There may be ways to help each other through it and build stronger bonds in the process.
Blame it on the holiday hype
Another explanation for the January spike may be indirectly holiday related. The marriage may have been the rocks already and the couple was either A) hoping the joy and magic of the holidays would reinvigorate the marriage or B) already talking about divorce and just didn’t want to ruin the holidays for kids or family.
Be prepared: If you are concerned about how others would take divorce you are already aware of its impact on others. Just as you prepare yourself with a support crew, children will need similar help coping. Line up a therapist ahead of time so you are not scouting for the one you like that takes your insurance in the midst of an emotional crisis. Quite often, therapists like to establish a relationship, especially with kids, before they dive into the emotional turmoil surrounding a divorce. Make sure that you consider how you will pay for continued therapy after the divorce is final and health insurance has changed.
Blame it on finances
It’s common knowledge that couples fight about money. So when finances are already tight, adding holiday gift buying and travel don’t make it any easier. When the bills start piling up in January, it can be just too much. Couples turn on each other.
Be prepared: Divorce can be expensive. So can maintaining two households on the same income that formerly supported one. Confer with your divorce attorney to establish realistic expectations for how much spousal and child support may be awarded. Prepare yourself financially to either pay that amount or live with that amount.
Blame it on the weather
It’s winter in Michigan. So it’s grey. It’s dark. It’s cold. The lack of sunlight changes people’s circadian rhythms, and serotonin and melatonin levels. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) sufferers may withdraw from family members, become distant, listless or irritable. Although there are remedies – like “light therapy”, psychotherapy or antidepressant medications – often people suffering from SAD do not recognize their deflated state and may not seek help even when a loved one recommends it. SAD impacts more than just the person who suffers from it. For couples that already have problems, SAD can exacerbate them year after year. The non-SAD partner may feel as if their spouse does not care about them. He or she may feel ignored. It’s no coincidence, therefore, that January and February are the peak months in Michigan for SAD symptoms and divorce filings.
Be prepared: Don’t forget the link between stress and your health. Try to resolve underlying health problems before embarking on divorce proceedings. Get a physical, lose weight, stop smoking, adjust antidepressants, get your thyroid tested. Whatever your nagging health issues may be before a divorce, the stress of divorce is not going to help them. Keep in mind that your health insurance might change once the divorce is complete.
While in the midst of the divorce, try to maintain nurturing habits to keep you healthy – both mentally and physically. Eat your veggies, get massages, do yoga, try to sleep as regularly as possible.
If you’re contemplating a post-holiday divorce filing, preparation is essential. Hire an attorney you trust, consider your finances, line up a support system for you and the kids and take care of your health.
Timesfreepress.com, “Split-up season: From January to March, divorce rates rise,” Anna Lockhart, February 18, 2014. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/life/entertainment/story/2014/feb/18/split-season-january-march-divorce-rates-rise/131996/
The Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD),” http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/causes/con-20021047