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Is there a season for divorce filings?

There seems to be a season for almost everything, including divorce. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington indicates a seasonal pattern for divorce. The researchers studied divorce filings between 2001 and 2015. They found that the number of divorce filings peaked consistently in March and August, the periods after winter and summer holidays and festivities. 

Why do divorce filings peak during these periods?

According to the researchers, these findings suggest that the "domestic ritual" calendar for American families influences divorce filings. Julie Brines, an associate sociology professor who authored the study, said that the summer and winter holidays are culturally important times for many families. Filing for divorce during the holidays is seen as inappropriate or even taboo. Also, some troubled couples believe that the holidays are the best time to start fresh and try to mend relationships. Many troubled couples hope that "things will be better" after a happy Christmas or a Caribbean vacation with the entire family.

However, holidays can be stressful and emotionally charged for many families. In some cases, the holidays actually cause the problems in a marriage to become more apparent. The rise of filings in March and August may reflect the dissatisfaction that some troubled couples feel when the holidays don't make them as happy as they expected to feel. Therefore, couples may file for divorce after the family vacation and before the start of the academic year if they have children.

Brines believes that divorce filings peak in March, a few months after the winter holidays, because couples need to reorganize their finances and find a lawyer. In the summer, couples may be motivated to file for divorce sooner after the family vacation and before the school year starts. Many experts believe that the longer days in the spring and summer elevates mood sufficiently to motivate individuals to take action. It is possible that similar forces may be influencing the pattern of divorce filings.

The pattern for divorce filings persisted even after other seasonal factors like the housing market and unemployment were taken into consideration. The researchers believe that if the seasonal pattern for divorce was related to family holidays, other family-related court actions would exhibit a similar pattern. They found exactly that, as the timing of guardianship filings was similar to the timing of divorce filings.

However, it should be noted that divorces take place year-round and that there is no "best time" to file for divorce.

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