Why Do So Many Couples File for Divorce in January?

Here in California, we typically see a spike in divorce filings that begin in January and peak in the month of March. It’s not unusual to see 30% more divorces filed at this time than during the rest of the year. There are several reasons for this so let’s spend a few minutes on both why this tends to be the case along with discussing some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of divorcing in January.


The holiday season brings with it lots of expectations, family get-togethers and emotions, so it’s easy to understand why many married couples don’t want to add the stress of a divorce during that time. Even if both members of the couple agree that a divorce is the right choice, having to explain that to extended family and friends during what is normally a time for celebration is something many people prefer to avoid.

Add to that if there are children in the marriage, preserving as much holiday joy as possible for them may be something the parents consider. Children also tend to extend the holiday season, as Halloween can be just as fun and exciting for the kids as any other holiday on the calendar. (pro-tip: it’s a good idea to include Halloween as one of the alternating “holidays” in your custody order.)

Another reason people choose to wait until after the holidays is that the holiday season is important to everyone else that will be assisting you in your divorce case. From the attorneys and paralegals like us to the judges and court clerks. Starting a case in the middle of December can result in several delays because multiple people in the chain will be taking time off for the holidays, in addition to the days the courts are closed.


Even in a great marriage, the holidays can bring enormous stress. Travelling, being stuck with in-laws, and buying gifts can put an already shaky marriage over the edge. There are also times when one or both of the people in a marriage decide to “give it one more try” over the holidays, hoping the cheerful and thankful spirit of the holidays brings a return of the good feeling they used to have in their marriage. When that feeling doesn’t return, or when the stress of the holidays brings out the worst parts of the marriage, that can be when the couple decides that divorce is the correct option for their situation.


The end of the year means the arrival of a lot of the financial documents that’s needed for the dissolution of a marriage. W2s, pay stubs, investment account statements, mortgage statements, etc. Having these in hand makes the process that much easier. In addition, one or both of the spouses may be in an occupation where they receive year end bonuses. It may be best if the date of separation comes after a financial event of that nature if they want the bonus to be considered community property.

And let’s not forget taxes! If a couple has been filing jointly, still being married for even part of the new year may let them file jointly one more time, easing the tax burden for the first year of being divorced.


For all of us, 2020 was a strange and difficult year. Because of COVID-19 concerns, many people felt financial strain as one or both partners in the marriage suffered through layoffs or slowdowns at work. Even for the fortunate couples whose incomes were not affected, the corona-virus pandemic changed the expectation of how much a home could be sold or purchased for, altered the local rental market, opened up new considerations on where one might live or even the best ways to safely share custody of the children. I’ve spoken to many couples that put a pause on their decision to part ways as they waited for the world to return to something close to the stability they were used to,

With several vaccines about to be approved, many experts are anticipating a return to normalcy around the middle of 2021. Since California divorces tend to take 6 months or more to finalize, we expect many couples to start moving forward on the filings they put off last year, with the hope of realizing a more positive future than their current circumstances.

Whatever one’s reasons for waiting until the new year to begin a divorce proceeding, speaking to an experienced Family Law attorney will be beneficial. From help determining the right timeline for your situation, to knowing which financial documents you’ll need copies of (hint: all of them), to making sure the custody, visitation schedule, and division of assets are both fair and account for your specific situation and concerns, planning your next steps with an Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer should be something you strongly consider. Call us at 310-935-9635 for a free consultation or click here.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

CategoryDivorce, Family Law
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