January marks the shift from festive days to everyday life, so many of us feel depressed during this month. This change may be a big contributing factor in January being a common month for couples to file for divorce. January is known among attorneys as Divorce Month.
However, according to the New York Times, January as Divorce Month is a misnomer. There is a marked spike in divorce filings in the first month of the year, but it generally hits its peak in March. August is another time of year where there is a rapid increase in divorce filings, historically.
Of course, there are many reasons for people to get divorced, and they are likely much deeper than seasonal depression from the end of the holidays.
But for many couples who may have decided to stay together through festivities, the New Year often brings a decision to end the marriage.
Reasons Couples Decide on Divorce in January
Besides the goal of getting through the holidays and family gatherings before re-evaluating the marriage, there are many reasons couples decide to end the marriage in January.
Here are a few:
- Children. If a couple has children, they often wait until the holidays are over to deal with the complexities of divorcing. It is often just too difficult to do so during the family-oriented December holidays.
- Taxes. The new year means filing for taxes. Since many couples file taxes as a couple, there may have been a conscious decision by one or both partners to not do that again.
- The broken promises theory. There are couples that stick together through the big events that often occur in December with the hope that whatever they are disagreeing about will resolve itself, and that the other spouse will live up to a commitment to change. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.
- New Year’s resolutions. January is often a time of reflection that follows a month of excesses. It is common for people to resolve to change problems in their lives, and sometimes, they might decide the problem is their spouse or their marriage.
- Stress from holidays. It may well be that the holidays and all the work and expense that go with the events around them made differences in the way the couple approaches a problem more obvious. It may be that one spouse or both decide that the marriage is just not going to work.
The above reasons for divorce may be uniquely prevalent after the holidays end, but, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are several very common reasons that crop up all year round. These are:
- Lack of commitment
- Domestic violence
- Substance abuse
The last three common reasons behind divorce cited by the NIH study are considered so-called last straws in marriages that may be experiencing troubles.
Signs a Marriage Is Heading toward Divorce
Often, one spouse is blindsided by the other’s decision to divorce. However, according to psychologists and marriage therapists, there are several telltale signs. Here are a few:
- You are speaking but not communicating. When a marriage hits roommate status and the most important conversations are about who can pick up the groceries or if the broken light bulb was fixed, a couple is communicating about superficial matters and avoiding the tough subjects, such as how they feel.
- You disagree about whether to have children. This is such a big decision in a couple’s life together, and when people do not agree on such a fundamental decision, one person is going to be disappointed or feel forced into an unwelcome decision.
- You are spending less and less time together. When you are avoiding time with your spouse, it is a definite sign of a decaying relationship.
Top Considerations with a Divorce
- When a divorce is looming, there are a lot of things that need to be put in order, if possible, to reduce the effects on your life going forward. Having both spouses be able to move forward independently in the most successful way is better not just for the individuals who are divorcing, but for any children involved.
- Custody arrangements must be considered. If there are children involved, will child custody be split 50/50? Will one spouse take over most of the care and the other looks after the children on weekends? How will holidays work? If the decision to divorce is mutual and the individuals involved can cooperate with one another, a huge step in the divorce process will have already been taken.
- Who gets the house? If there are children and it has been decided that one spouse will be the primary caretaker of the children, it is likely that spouse will remain in the home. It may be decided that the house will be sold and profits will be divided between the two divorcing spouses.
- Talk to an accountant or financial planner if possible to go over your budget.
There are several things to keep in mind to keep yourself in the best financial situation:
- Keep assets liquid.
- Do not make any large purchases. They may become a contentious issue in divorce proceedings.
- Save money now for emergencies. Traveler’s checks are a safe way to keep money accessible, but safer than cash.
- Freeze joint credit card accounts. Like assets, the debt from the marriage will be shared. It is not unusual for one spouse to run a huge credit card bill as a divorce approaches.
- Keep working so you are secure when you are single.
- Set up an individual account if you have joint bank accounts; if you have direct deposit from work, have your salary deposited into the new account.
- Inheritances, Workers’ Compensation, personal injury awards, and items that you brought into the marriage should be kept separate. They are not joint assets.
- Remember that the divorced spouse cannot stay on a family health plan. The children can stay on the plan, but the divorced spouse needs to find another health plan. The cost of health insurance premiums can be built into the spousal support agreements. You also can continue coverage from your former spouse’s health insurance plan after the divorce by electing COBRA coverage. This is an expensive option and limited in time frame. The premium will be 104 percent of the policy cost and it can last only 36 months. Securing your own coverage needs to be done within 60 days of divorce or legal separation.
- Pensions are joint assets and can be divided in a divorce settlement. Your lawyer will need to prepare a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) before your divorce is finalized.
- If your marriage lasted for at least 10 years, you are eligible to collect on your ex-spouse’s portion of their Social Security pension, provided that you do not qualify to collect based on your own earnings. For example, if she qualifies, a wife can collect once her ex-husband turns 62, whether or not he retires, and the divorce has been finalized for over two years.
- Do not be caught by surprise if your spouse is handling the bills and the taxes, and you find out that outstanding taxes are owed. Contact federal and state tax departments to see if there are any unpaid taxes. You will be held liable as well as your former spouse going forward.
- Check at the county courthouse to see if there are any liens placed on any of your property. If you receive the house in the divorce proceeding but there is a lien on it, it is just another liability for you.
- Go over all your important tax documents and records, particularly:
- Bank accounts; account numbers, branch location, and funds available
- Life insurance
- Tax returns for the past five years
- Homeowner’s Insurance
- Pay stubs over the past six months
- 401(k) plan documents
- Property titles
- Vehicle titles
- Home equity loans
- Mortgage Information
- Mutual funds
- Certificates of deposit
- Individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
Divorce is wrapped up in emotion from start to finish. However, ensuring that it is fair for both parties, that you are aware of what is yours and what an equitable decision will look like, is critical to moving on to an independent life in the best possible way.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, Will Help You Navigate Your Divorce
Deciding on divorce is never easy, but a lawyer can make the process go more smoothly. The Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC, are available to help during this challenging time. Our legal team is experienced in helping clients reach a mutual agreement that will benefit the entire family. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 443-589-0150. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.