For some couples the holidays can be even more stressful – they can also mean a divorce in the new year. As we round out 2015 and look towards 2016, you might be considering a divorce for your new year. Below we discuss why January has been nick-named “Divorce Month,” as well as what to do if your new year means “new divorce.”
New Year, New Divorce?
According to James McLaren, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, divorce attorneys “see a significant increase in people seeking out divorce advice and, ultimately, filing. The number of filings is one-third more than normal. That begins in January and probably goes into early March.”
What is it about the new year that drives people to divorce? A lot of times, that divorce has been a long time coming, and not just the result of stressful holidays.
If you are considering divorce, you know it’s not a consideration taken lightly. Chances are you’ve been dealing with these emotions for a while now. Know that you are not alone. There are many reasons that people divorce. Here are a few of them:
Lack of communication. When you are unable to communicate with your partner, you create distance. This can be from lack of sharing feelings, or not keeping your partner in the loop about what’s happening with you emotionally. A successful relationship is one that has open lines of communication. Otherwise it can feel like nothing is ever resolved, and as if you aren’t even talking about why things can’t be resolved. Additionally, chances are you both feel as if something is being left unsaid. These feelings can multiply over time and become much larger than they were at the beginning. You might consider working with a relationship therapist to learn how to communicate effectively.
Financial Issues. Money, and lack of it, can lead to a lot of problems in relationships. Often times two people have very different mindsets when it comes to saving and spending. If you and your spouse are not in agreement when it comes to how to manage your money, it can cause a lot of problems. Sit down and have an open conversation about how you relate to money and what your goals are. You might find one spouse wants to save to buy a house or to go on a big vacation, while the other spouse would rather go out to dinner every night of the week and have a closet filled with amazing clothes. You might have different goals, and neither one is wrong. Try to find a middle ground. You might also want to speak with a financial adviser that can take a look at your financial situation and advise you on how to move forward based on your joint goals.
Feeling Held Back. When you first started dating your spouse you may have felt as if the sky was the limit, or maybe you felt like you needed to change yourself a little for him or her. Over the course of a marriage things can change. You might feel now as if your spouse and marriage are holding you back from achieving goals and taking opportunities. If you don’t feel supported by your spouse you can begin to feel as if you are being held back from really accomplishing what you want to during your lifetime. Try to get a clear-headed assessment. Are you really being held back? Or maybe it’s just how you are perceiving the situation. An open conversation might be the best place to start.
Trust. Trust is one of the leading factors in having a successful relationship and marriage. It can be impossible to achieve anything if you do not trust each other. Ask yourself if there’s a reason for the lack of trust. Was there an infidelity or past infidelities? Or are you just reading into things? Try to get a clear head about why there is not trust in your relationship. Maybe working with a relationship therapist can help you both deal with any trust issues.
Expectations. If you expected one thing at the beginning of the relationship and you aren’t getting it now, or your expectations have changed, you might find that you aren’t as happy in your relationship as you could be.
Your spouse doesn’t understand or fulfill your needs and desires. We all have different needs and wants that need to be met by the significant other in our lives. If you have a partner that doesn’t acknowledge your interests and desires then they won’t do what they can to fulfill your needs and wants.
Sudden Life Change. New changes happen at every moment in our lives. This can be the birth of a child, death of a parent, sudden job loss, a new opportunity for a job across the country. You will both need to be adaptable and know how to be supportive of each other. Life is unplanned, but you should be able to plan that your spouse will be there to support you whether its a good change or a difficult one.
Domestic Violence If you’ve been in a situation, or are currently in a situation, where your partner has been abusive or controlling in any manner, you should consider seeking help. If need be, contact a trusted family, friend, or an attorney about this matter.
So, why January?
While there are numerous reasons for divorce, that still doesn’t explain why January is such a peak month.
What does explain it are the holidays, and what the holiday season can mean. Often couples just want to “get through the holidays.”
According to McLaren, “It doesn’t look very good to sue your spouse for divorce on Christmas Eve.” Additionally, courts are not necessarily open during the holiday season like they are during the rest of the year. “You do not want to file a divorce case and be faced with the inability to get into court.”
Other couples decide to wait till January so that kids are able to spend one more holiday season all together. In some ways, couples view it as “the last Christmas.”
And according to Abby Rodman, a psychotherapist based in Boston, there really is no perfect time to get divorced. “Most marriages aren’t all bad, all the time,” she says.
While divorce might seem like the only option, remember that legal separation is also available. Legal separation allows couples to live apart and take a “break” from each other, while also ensuring that each spouse’s legal rights are protected via a legal separation agreement. Legal separations can also be called: “judicial separation”, “separate maintenance”, “divorce a mensa et thoro“, or “divorce from bed-and-board.” All these terms refer to the legal process by which a married couple formalizes a de facto separation while remaining legally married.
Steps to Follow for Legal Separation
Here are the steps you will take to acquire a legal separation:
- Consider working with a family law attorney that can advise you on all the necessary steps of your legal separation.
- You and your spouse will need to decide on grounds for the separation
- Fill out a Form FL-100 Petition. This form includes options for divorce (dissolution of marriage) or legal separation.
- If you have children under 18, you will need to complete Form FL-105/GC-120 which provides information to the court regarding children.
- File Form FL-100 at your local county court. Pay any necessary fees. If you receive public benefits or have low income, you might be eligible for a fee waiver.
- Serve your spouse with a copy of the court papers if they were not filed together. There will need to be proof of the serving, which can be done through various means such as a process server. A family law attorney can advise you on how to obtain this proof.
Sign a Formal Legal Separation Agreement
It’s always advised that you sign a formal legal separation agreement. This agreement outlines child support and visitation, property division, and any other aspect of a marriage. An attorney will be able to prepare this legal and binding document. This will offer you legal protection should your spouse fail to live up to his or her obligations and will also also hold up in court.
The following should be included in the legal separation agreement:
Benefits – With legal separation spouses are able to retain certain benefits that were available during the marriage, such as health insurance.
Home Residency – If a couple shares a home, it should be decided at this time what will happen to the residency during the separation. The agreement should include information regarding who is able to live in the home, who is responsible for maintaining the home, and who is financially handling the home.
Joint Accounts – A legal separation agreement outlines who has access to those joint accounts such as joint checking, savings, and credit accounts. It’s often advised to close or freeze these accounts during the separation. Each spouse will then need to obtain their own personal accounts.
Protection from Acquired Debt – A legal separation agreement will shield you from being responsible for debt acquired during the time of the legal separation.
Deciding on Divorce
If following your legal separation, or if you just decide after the holidays that you want to divorce, it’s always advised that you consider working with a family law attorney. They will be able to advise you on any number of issues, including: child support, spousal support, marital property division, child visitation, etc… A lawyer from the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA will be able to guide you through the divorce process. The Divorce & Family Law Offices of Divorce Law LA will provide you with the highest level of expertise and professionalism from our skilled attorneys. Our Divorce and Family Law Practice spans a wide spectrum of areas that include: divorce, high net-worth divorce, marital property division, child custody and visitation, and child support.
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