Love and relationships: March is divorce month
(BPT) - Have you been thinking about divorce? Have you been searching the Internet for information about divorce? But putting off the decision until after the holiday season?
You're not alone.
Legal websites such as FindLaw.com are being flooded with searches for information about divorce
. It's an annual trend that occurs each January, according to FindLaw.com, and culminates with a surge of divorce filings in March.
January has been long perceived as "divorce month." As widely reported in the U.S. media, the period following the holiday season is when family law attorneys report a sudden increase in clients seeking legal advice regarding an impending separation or divorce.
On a related note, Internet searches for "divorce" and other divorce-related terms and phrases on FindLaw.com
, the Internet's leading source for free legal information with more than 5.1 million visits per month, jumped 50 percent, from just over 10,000 in December 2010, to nearly 16,000 in January 2011, and remained steady through March 2011.
The January surge is typically only the start in a surge of activity that peaks in March.
Using Westlaw, the most widely used legal research database in the world, FindLaw.com reviewed divorce filings
across the U.S. back to 2008. Actual filings for divorce rise for the first few months of every year and typically peak in March.
Mark Ohnstad, a prominent family law attorney with the Minneapolis firm Thomsen Nybeck, says there may be several reasons why individuals wait until the first three months of the year to begin divorce proceedings.
"While they may have been thinking about divorce for some time, and taking steps such as obtaining marital counseling, many men and women may put off their decision to file to avoid additional stress during the holiday season," Ohnstad says. "Couples with children especially may want to have one last holiday season together as a family."
For others, the stress of in-laws, money troubles and career challenges, coupled with the pressures to "be happy" during the holidays, leads some men and women to cheat on their spouses during this time. A study on holiday depression noted that of those who cheat on their spouses, 56 percent of men and 42 percent of women do so during the holiday season, says leading marriage therapist Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil. These affairs may trigger post-New Year's divorce filings by spouses who discover the affairs or by the cheating spouse, who now wants to end the marriage.
Another reason that many people delay divorce is related to income taxes. Your marital status as of December 31 determines whether you'll file a joint or individual return for the prior year.
If you're considering filing for divorce, here are nine tips from FindLaw to consider:
1. Can your marriage be saved? Divorce is expensive and can have an emotional toll for you and your children that can last for years. Have you done everything possible to avoid divorce, including seeking marriage or mental health counseling for yourself as well as for you and your spouse together?
2. Have a plan. Become familiar with your state's divorce laws. Some states have cooling-off periods that can last as long as six months. You'll need a plan for how you will begin the separation process, how you'll keep your kids secure and safe, and how you'll get by financially.
3. Build a support network. Divorce is hard on close family members and friends, too. Don't rely on them alone to get you through this transition. Seek out support groups for divorced persons through a nearby church or other community organization.
4. Save, save, save. Divorce is not cheap. Besides attorney's fees, you'll need extra cash on hand to establish a new household. In addition, you should anticipate disagreements with your spouse about who pays what bills.
5. Hire an experienced divorce attorney. Seek the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney for the expertise you need to protect your interests throughout the process. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand the best way to approach a divorce filing based on your state's divorce laws.
6. Protect your safety. Filing for divorce can unleash powerful, angry and potentially violent feelings and reactions. Before you file, think about how your spouse may react, and make a plan to protect your safety and the safety of your children. If there is a history of violence in your family, act with extreme caution.
7. Put your kids first. It's critical to reassure your children they are not at fault because mom and dad are divorcing. It's also essential to make sure both parents tell the children that they're loved. And as angry as you may be, it's important not to badmouth your spouse in front of your children.
8. Get your papers in order. Before you file, get all important documents in order, make copies and start a file. You should know the status of all financial accounts - savings, debts, the sources and amount of income entering the home each month, mortgage papers and proof of ownership of all other important assets.
9. Take stock. Before you file, take an inventory of all personal and joint assets, including jewelry, family heirlooms and other personal items. It is not uncommon for personal items to "suddenly go missing" before a divorce is complete.