Published On: Fri, Aug 26th, 2016

New Study Finds That Divorce May Be a Seasonal Affair

Everything has a season – even divorce, according to a new study from the University of Washington.

Julie Brines, associate sociology professor, and Brian Serafini, doctoral candidate, looked at divorce filings between 2001 and 2015 in Washington state. What the data showed may not be so surprising after all: the number of divorce filings tend to peak in March and August.

It’s no big secret that just like with weddings, divorces also seem to be more popular during certain times of the year. Now, researchers have the data to support that idea.

The data also showed that the number of divorces in the state declined sharply in the fall and winter months.

Why are divorces common in these two months?

“The answer is actually more obvious than you think,” says Kathleen Newman, Minnesota divorce attorney. “If you want a divorce, when is the right time to bring up the topic? The holidays? No. Spring? Maybe, but the kids are still in school, which can create complications.”

photo Koshy Koshy

photo Koshy Koshy

Brines says the summer and winter holidays are considered “sacred times for families,” and asking for a divorce during these times may be considered inappropriate.

But Brines also says these periods of the year represent times when couples may feel they’re given a fresh start or a new beginning – to try something new in hopes of improving the relationship. At the same time, these periods can also serve as breaking points.

Holidays are emotionally-charged times, says Brines, which can expose difficulties in a marriage. Couples assume that the holidays will reinvigorate the marriage and make their problems disappear. When the holiday season is over and the same issues keep plaguing the relationship, someone finally decides to take the plunge and file for divorce.

Brines and Serafini didn’t set out to find a pattern in divorce filings. The pair was looking at data to investigate the impact of the recession on marriages. After poring through filings for counties all throughout the state, they noticed peaks and valleys in the number of filings during certain months.

During the recession, the researchers found that the filing pattern was slightly different, with one peak earlier in the year and one in the fall. Overall, the pattern was more volatile, which they speculate may be due to financial uncertainties during this time.

Only two counties were excluded from the research: Wahkiakum and Lincoln. Both of these counties are small, rural and allow divorces to be granted through the mail. Brines and Serafini assumed that data from these two counties would skew results, but as it turns out, they were wrong.

Lincoln County only began accepting divorces through the mail in 2001, but the filings in the county followed the same pattern – just in a more pronounced way.

Now, the researchers are looking into finding similar patterns in other states. So far, they’ve examined filings from Minnesota, Ohio, Arizona and Florida. These states have similar divorce laws to Washington state, but have different economic conditions and demographics. Despite these differences, the pattern persisted.

Brines concluded that the “seasonal pattern” for divorce is nearly the same.

Author: Jacob Maslow

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