A recent study released by Sociologists from the University of Washington aims to answer the question if divorce is a seasonal event. From 2001-2015, researchers analyzed the state’s divorce filings, looking for various trends and patterns. Their findings demonstrate the first quantitative evidence of a seasonal biannual pattern of divorce filings, with the months of March and August showing spikes in the state’s divorce rate.
Associate sociology professor Julie Brines has explained that the findings suggest divorce filings may be driven by domestic traditions and expectations. Traditionally summer and winter holidays are an important time for families and some may consider it “taboo” to file for divorce. Troubled couples may also hope that family vacations and holiday traditions will aid in mending relationships and offer a fresh start. Researchers suggest that when the holidays don’t live up to expectations, unhappy spouses may feel even more disillusioned. Family vacations and holiday stress can also expose fissures in a marriage.
The research suggests a divorce spike in August is attributed to the end of the summer vacation season and the beginning of the school year. Although the March divorce spike occurs a few months after the winter holidays, it suggests that many who plan to file use the winter as a time to get their finances in order and find an attorney. Brines has stated, “August and March represent periods in the year when there is the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life. It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense.”
When researchers began the study, they were initially looking for effects of the recession on marital stability, but the biannual pattern was hard to ignore. Interestingly, when looking at factors such as unemployment and the housing market, the biannual pattern persisted regardless of an increase or decrease in the number of filings.
To broaden the scope of their study, researchers looked at divorce data in Ohio, Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona. Although these states have similar divorce laws, the economic and demographic conditions of the areas greatly vary. For example, Florida and Arizona were hit hard by the 2008 recession while Ohio had above average employment rates. Despite many differences between the states one thing remained the same: the biannual pattern of divorce filings.
The research has yet to be peer reviewed, but certainly serves as an intriguing initial finding.
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Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.
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