Seasons for Divorce

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Seasons

This week we are looking into divorce trends. We are curious about the frequency of divorcing early in the marriage, rather than later into the marriage. It seems that people are waiting to marry until they are a bit older, and we are wondering if this trend has any effect on divorce rates. We are also aware that the poor economy has affected almost every facet of our lives. Has the economy even had an effect on divorce? We have a feeling that some couples are remaining in unhappy marriages because of financial reasons due to the volatile economy.

In addition to divorce rates among varying age groups and financial backgrounds, we wonder if there are any geographical trends in divorce. Do some areas have a reputation for divorce, while other parts of the country are known for lasting marriages? Lastly, we wonder if certain times of the year see a spike in divorce? Are unhappy couples suffering through the holidays together and divorcing at the start of the new year, for example?

Why We’re Asking:

Divorce rates are high, and have been for decades now. We want to be aware of specific divorce trends, and which groups are most at risk. Even more, we want to know why it is so expensive to divorce? Which legal steps can unhappy couples take to save money on attorney fees?

We look to our Legal Network Members to learn more:

Are there seasons for divorce?

Who in the marriage typically files for divorce?

How should couples go about property division?

Does marrying later in life lower the risk for divorce?

Has the poor economy discouraged divorce due to financial reasons?

How can couples save money on attorney fees when filing for a divorce?

We look forward to learning more about divorce from our legal resources.

Legal resources, please post your answers in the comment field below!

10 COMMENTS

  1. As a divorce attorney, I do notice certain times of the year that parties choose to avoid filing. Typically, the Christmas season and the very start of a school year tend to be times that some parties want to avoid filing for divorce. I have also experienced clients who choose to file towards the end of the kids’ school year so as to have everything resolved before the new school year begins. On the whole, people file for divorce when they are ready and this can be at any time throughout the year.

  2. There are certain times of year or times in life when people typically decide to initiate a divorce. The early months of the year, when people receive money for the holidays and from tax returns, are particularly busy for new divorce filings. There may also be a trend based on life events, such as being married for a certain period of time, reaching a certain age, or the escalation of family circumstances that leave people feeling like they have no other option.

    Almost no one gets married with the plan of getting divorced. I’ve seen couples that decide to split up during the first year or two of their marriage and others who wait several decades. It boils down to being a personal decision of when someone is ready for their marriage to end. There may be statistics on whether people who marry later in life tend to stay married longer, but in my experience working with survivors of violence, I do not think that marrying later is going to protect anyone from the possible need to get divorced later on.

    The questions I get from almost every client is how long a divorce is going to take and how much it is going to cost. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to predict the answers to these questions, especially when the couple has children together or when they don’t agree on fundamental issues. I advise my clients to be prepared for a long process that will be emotionally draining, even in the best case scenario. To keep costs low, I encourage my clients to understand what they are and are not being charged for. Is a lawyer charging for the time they spend driving to and from the courthouse? If they spend 20 minutes working, are they actually charging for half an hour, or even a full hour? I also encourage my clients to ask questions up front and without hesitation. It takes far less time to answer lots of questions early on than it does to clear up confusion and change strategy later on.

  3. I recently took a continuing legal education class on dating sites and
    liability. In the course one of the attorneys suggested that divorces
    spiked right after Valentine’s day. I think that a spouse did not meet the
    expectation and someone else did. It would not surprise me if following
    Christmas or Thanksgiving there was a spike for the same reason. Many
    people divorce after children graduate from high school so graduations are a
    seasonal trigger.

  4. In General:

    I have noticed some seasonal trends in divorces. The start of the year is a big one: people have gotten through the holidays, family time has not improved an intolerable situation, and New Year’s resolutions often include addressing things that we have avoided. Spring when school is almost over and a long summer break with the family seems intolerable. A third time is in the fall when family vacations are over and things are no different, and before end of year bonuses are due or the holidays set in. Nobody really wants to start a divorce during the holidays so many suffer through it before they make a move.

    In general, if it’s divorce data you’re after, the most recent surveys are from the Center for Disease Control, National Survey of Family Growth. They cover data from 1990-2011 broken down by state which can be accessed here: http://1.usa.gov/1636yCT

    Who in the marriage typically files for divorce?
    The statistics show that women usually file first for divorce but I’m not sure that’s a relevant topic for conversation. There are so many reasons that couples (husband or wife) file for divorce including but not limited to infidelity (theirs or their spouses), loss of attraction to the spouse, lack of interest in a physical relationship, loss of trust, perceived or actual lack of freedom, tension from differences in salaries, divergent beliefs in child rearing, simply growing apart, etc. What I have found interesting in conversations with people in unhappy marriages is that, in spite of the high rate of divorce, both men and women are usually extremely reluctant to divorce. There are many reasons for this including considerations such as impact on children, division of assets, the change in standard of living and comfort/routine. I’ve found that couples are willing to stay in a situation without affection, partnership or trust even to the point of contempt, arrogance and infidelity just to avoid having to turn their entire world, and that of their children, upside down. And even when couples do take a step in the direction of divorce, some still change their mind during the process.

    How should couples go about property division?
    Evenly. Honestly. Openly. My advice to the couples I have worked with is the sum of the whole is larger than the sum of two parts. What I mean by that is, if both parties are working together to make the marital estate larger through tax deductions and less attorneys’ fees, then there is more for both. So whenever possible, recognize that and work together.

    Does marrying later in life lower the risk for divorce?
    That’s an interesting question. Statistics show that people are marrying 9 months to a year later and the divorce rate is decreasing from about 50% to 45% (41% of first time marriages end in divorce; 60% of second marriages end in divorce; 73% of third marriages end in divorce). But whether or not there’s a causal connection is unclear. On a philosophical level I have always argued that we, as people, start to understand who we are as we get older and we’re thus better able to see what works for us and what doesn’t. As a result, one can argue that we make more informed choices. But I don’t think anyone can answer that question definitively.

    Has the poor economy discouraged divorce due to financial reasons?
    I think the poor economy has encouraged divorce for high earners and discouraged it for low earners. There was a great article in the New York Times a few years ago that, more or less, noted that money is often the glue that holds marriages together. When it disappears, there is no longer a strong reason to stay together with someone with whom a connection has been lost for whatever reason. If there is little or no money in the marriage, then the high cost of divorce (or the perception that divorces are expensive) seems to keep many people in a state of limbo. Sometimes those marriages reconcile but more often than not they eventually find someone to help them and divorce. I often read articles where people think divorcing too easy of a process. And for people with great wealth it may be easily affordable, but it is almost never easy in any other way.

    How can couples save money on attorney fees when filing for a divorce?
    Mediate with one lawyer. Or meet with your Accountant, ask him/her to suggest or recommend a division of the assets and propose tax saving opportunities in the process. When I help couples, I almost always work with an Accountant. To do so otherwise is missing possible opportunities to make the process smoother and to provide more incentives to work together for everyone.

  5. Although each divorce matter is different, because each couple is different, I noticed that divorce filings slow right around Halloween/early November and tail off during the December holiday season, only to pick up again sometime in mid-January.

    My approach with either party is to make sure that he or she can truthfully say that the marriage is irretrievably broken and cannot be reconciled. It’s not easy to say which party, the husband or the wife, comes to that decision quicker. But, I can say women tend to make up their mind about filing quicker than men.

    With division of assets and debts, the parties need to categorize them according to which ones were acquired during the marriage by either of them or both of them and which ones were the results of gifts from third parties, inheritances, or were used for gambling or affairs. That categorization will go a long way to deciding which assets and debts must be shared between the parties and which ones should not.

    My experience reveals that couples who marry later in life have lived their lives to a degree that provides them with some maturity and experience. This is not to say that younger couples lack maturity or experience. But, for the most part, an older individual who marries has some contemplative reasoning which causes him or her to be apt to work out difficulties during a marriage that might result in other people filing for divorce.

    There is no doubt that the last 4-5 years have been exceedingly difficult for people regarding their jobs, assets, and overall finances. Some people who were divorced before then are coming back into court to ask a judge to rethink the prior financial agreements because of the state of the economy. Although the Great Recession of 2008 to now has not truly caused a decrease in divorce filings, it has caused people to rethink issues including whether to retain a home, keep stocks, and made me inform clients to visit an accountant or financial planner.

    I tell any client the more work he or she does out of my office, less I need to do and the lower the bill. But, there are essential efforts a client needs from an attorney. One way a client can easily save on fees is not to call or to email the attorney each time he or she has a question. Instead, I tell client to save up the non-emergent issues and send me one email or call me once. The more organized a client is, the more efficient I can work, too.

  6. Not an attorney, but I run Google advertising campaigns for attorneys and
    over the years have noticed a pattern… First, divorce and bankruptcy are
    correlated. Family tensions and arguments arise when money is tight and
    blame is thrown around my attorney clients tell me. So, bankruptcy can
    often lead to divorce.

    Interestingly, people often use their federal tax refund to pay the
    attorney for a bankruptcy. So I guess you could say tax refund season is
    bankruptcy & divorce season.

  7. Are there seasons for divorce?

    Not that we have noticed.

    Who in the marriage typically files for divorce?

    In our experience (since 1982) it is usually the wife.

    How should couples go about property division?

    If it is at all possible for divorcing couples to come to an agreement with regard to the division of personal property and assets, and with regard to custody, parenting time and child support, it will greatly aid in obtaining a timely and reasonably priced divorce.

    Does marrying later in life lower the risk for divorce?

    Not necessarily. The later you get married, the more set in your ways you have become; and it is frequently difficult for a person used to doing whatever they want, to suddenly have to factor in the wishes or personal habits of another.

    Has the poor economy discouraged divorce due to financial
    reasons?

    How can couples save money on attorney fees when filing for a
    divorce?

    I cannot stress this enough. If you both know that divorce is inevitable, then do the best you can to agree on the division of personal property and assets, and on custody, parenting time and child support. The cost of a divorce is directly proportional to the inability of the parties to agree on these items. You may want to stick it to your soon-to-be ex-spouse, but every minute your attorneys spend trying to get you to see reason, is a minute you get charged for.

    We can do an uncontested divorce for $750.00 if the parties can reach an agreement without involving their attorneys in the negotiating. If they can’t, our contested divorces reach well into the thousands of dollars. You are much better off if you can get past the pain for the divorce and not try to punish your spouse by being unreasonable with regard to these issues.

  8. When it comes to property division, the courts should be a last resort only. Divorcing couples that can work with one another, make concessions, and come to an agreement amicably will not only save money, but have a smoother divorce process as well.

  9. In our law firm’s experience with individual consumers and families encountering foreclosure and financial distress on many levels, it is certain that no good comes to families and marriages from rising foreclosure rates and falling home prices. Although we do not directly handle divorce cases, we are geared to help people in all walks of life to navigate through financial crises. We often work with good people who have divorced or are involved in that difficult process. On a good note, we also see many couples’ relationships become even stronger as they work through difficult times.

    Nevada already is regularly in the top 5 states with its high divorce and foreclosure rates. Despite the national trend in 2007 to 2009, which saw nearly all states’ divorce rates decline in tandem with rising foreclosures, divorce rates in Nevada increased. This, according to a paper published by the National Center for Marriage and Family Research, entitled “Recession and Divorce in the United States, Economic Conditions and Divorce Rates: 2007-2009” by Philip N. Cohen, http://ncfmr.bgsu.edu/pdf/Counting%20Couples/Conference%20Papers/file98565.pdf

    Regardless of what statistics may show, there are multiple avenues and resources available to consumers and couples, whether it be from couples’ counseling, from legal aid and self-help centers and private attorneys. Much is to be said about working through problems in a sensible and civil manner, and avoiding the high costs and stress of an acrimonious split or failure to address financial issues. Also, beware of those who actually prey on couples and individuals most in need of professional advice and assistance.

  10. Based on a courtesy review of court filings, I think that spring and summer months are popular for divorce. It may have something to do with “spring cleaning” or new year resolutions.

    *Who in the marriage typically files for divorce?* I think that women lead in filing for divorce.

    *How should couples go about property division?* If the couple is truly set on a divorce, then clear communication and conversation must take place.
    Yet, that simple statement is hard for some couples because the lack of communication and conversation usually forms the basis for the deterioration of the marriage in the first place. But if the couple can communicate, then they must be honest about what each party needs and can afford in their future with a single income. Any property division that is not equitable and not approved by both parties will likely not be approved by the court. So, this is the time to be fair and honest.

    *Does marrying later in life lower the risk for divorce?* I don’t know. I would hope that age brings wisdom.

    *Has the poor economy discouraged divorce due to financial reasons?* The economy is a barrier that leads a married couple to just live separate
    lives. The court filing fees, attorney fees and ancillary fees can add up, but those fees can be fixed to some extent. If the parties do not dissolve
    the marriage, there are other non-fixed fees that can cost even more on the back end if the correct legal protections are not undertaken.

    *How can couples save money on attorney fees when filing for a divorce?* In the state of Tennessee, a party with no property and no children can file a
    divorce pro se using a divorce form approved by the state. Otherwise, the parties should try to decide all pertinent matters such as child support,
    property division and outstanding bills before an attorney is consulted. If those items are decided, at least in part, then the attorney fees will be
    less. If the parties want to fight…then they should be prepared to pay.re there seasons for divorce?* Based on a courtesy review of court
    filings, I think that spring and summer months are popular for divorce. It may have something to do with “spring cleaning” or new year resolutions.

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