Filing For Divorce Spikes During Two Different Times Of the Year

Reasearchers noticed a pattern when it came time to pulling the plug on a marriage. 

Think it’s stressful going back to work after a vacation? Well, now you may get divorced too

There is new evidence of a seasonal, biannual pattern of filings for divorce, and researchers have found that they consistently peaked in March and August, the periods following winter and summer holidays, new research from University of Washington sociologists concludes.

Associate sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini presented the research at the American Sociological Association in Seattle, saying that divorce filings may be driven by a “domestic ritual” calendar governing family behavior.

“Winter and summer holidays are culturally sacred times for families,” Julie said, “when filing for divorce is considered inappropriate, even taboo. And troubled couples may see the holidays as a time to mend relationships and start anew: We’ll have a happy Christmas together as a family or take the kids for a nice camping trip, the thinking goes, and things will be better.

“People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past,” she adds. “They represent periods in the year when there’s the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life. It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense.”

But vacations can expose marriage problems and be very stressful. Often the vacation doesn’t live up to romantic expectations, contributing to the consistent pattern in filings.

In August, they follow summer vacation and happen before the kids start school. In March, several months after the winter holidays, divorce filings spike because couples are looking for a lawyer or panicking before pulling the plug. 

“It was very robust from year to year, and very robust across counties,” Julie said. “That leads me to think that it takes some time emotionally for people to take this step,” Brines said. “Filing for divorce, whether you do it by mail or appear in court, is a big step.”

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