Is January really 'divorce month?' Lawyers say yes, but data sparse
TORONTO -- January tends to be a time for fresh starts and lifestyle changes, including when it comes to marriage.
Among some lawyers, January is referred to as “divorce month,” due to a spike in divorce or separation filings they handle in the early part of the year. But are there really more divorces in January?
Barry Nussbaum, a senior lawyer at Nussbaum Law in Toronto, told CTVNews.ca in an email that he sees about 20 per cent more divorce filings in January compared to other months and a “marked difference from December to January.”
“I believe there are two reasons: couples prefer to push off the separation/divorce to after the holidays so that children’s vacation and family time is not disrupted and ruined; (and) often the stress of the holiday time pushes couples that are already on the brink of separation over the line,” he wrote.
Zeina Al-Sayed, a divorce mediator and paralegal based in Calgary, told CTV Calgary that she also starts to see divorce enquiries pick up at the start of the year.
“(It’s) a time where people…actually want to file for divorce,” she said. “They reach out to lawyers and divorce professionals to start the process.”
Colette Fortin, a divorce mediator with Fairway Divorce Solutions in Kitchener, Ont., told CTV Kitchener she generally witnesses an increase in divorce applications in the new year as well.
“Post-holiday separation is the most common that we see,” she said. “(Couples) are often reflecting on: ‘Am I happy?’ and ‘Where are our lives going?’ so certainly that’s often part of the decision.”
The U.K.-based law firm Irwin Mitchell said on its website that divorce enquiries spike as much as 25 per cent in January, but that it’s a myth to imply that couples are waiting at their door in the new year.
“Our research and experience shows that often partners have already agreed to separate but stay together for one last Christmas with their children rather that cause a massive upheaval during the festive holidays,” Martin Loxley, a consultant at the firm, said in the blog post.
Canadian data to back these claims is virtually non-existent, however.
Due to budget cuts, Statistics Canada stopped compiling divorce statistics in 2011 and they are not broken down by month. Last year, more than 30 academics, activists, and public figures petitioned Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains to consider bringing back the divorce data to Statistics Canada.
According to Google Trends, Canadian searches for the word “divorce” last year spiked in mid-January, the first week of April and at the very end of the year, while searches for the word “breakup” spiked in mid-August and searches for the word “separation” spiked at the end of October.
There are also studies that appear to debunk the notion.
According to a 2016 study from the University of Washington, between 2005 and 2015, divorce filings in Washington State reached peaks in March and August.
The researchers argued both months follow a winter or summer holiday, meaning couples tend to use a last vacation as a way of trying to save their marriage. They also noted that couples might want to have their divorce settled before their children head back to school in September.
Regardless of whether January is a popular time for divorces, the New Jersey-based law firm Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group argues that January is the best time to file for divorce as it won’t ruin the holidays, it’s easier when it comes to taxes and provides a clean cutoff date for dividing up savings.
Fortin agreed that there are some potential financial incentives to holding off a divorce until the new year.
“Certainly from a tax perspective and a financial disclosure perspective, all statements are coming in at year-end,” she said.
With files from CTV Kitchener and CTV Calgary