As the holidays wind down, statistics show that the start of the New Year brings a spike in the number of new divorce filings. In fact, divorce lawyers call the first working Monday in January “Divorce Day,” due to the increased number of calls. Best estimates reveal that one in five married couples is considering divorce after the holidays (according to a poll discussed by the UK online Independent).
And in the US, a study of the last 15 years worth of divorce filings in Washington state show that the New Years filings peak in March and then again in August:
Divorce Filings by Month
The working theory among many lawyers is that a lousy winter holiday or failed summer vacation can be the final straw that breaks the marriage. There is increased stress and often a feeling of let-down surrounding these times when special memories are supposed to be made. Couples struggle with that last holiday or vacation.
If you find yourself among those waiting for a January appointment with a divorce lawyer, here are my top five tips for getting ready for your appointment:
- Get Your Financials. While you won’t have the year-end information in full until sometime in late January or early February, the last paystubs of the year may contain important information for your divorce attorney to assess some of the financial issues that might take place in your case, particularly with regard to child support and alimony. While you are looking for those paystubs, collect your bank statements, credit card bills, and last year’s tax return for your meeting. If things have been particularly difficult, you can also run a free credit report on yourself and maybe even your spouse to see what debts might be out there.
- Social Media Break. Everything you post on social media, whether about the kids to spending money, is up for grabs in your divorce. Look through your social media posts and self-edit. Social media has a number of great resources, but be mindful about what you say because you don’t know all the people in any given support group page. If you want to post things for your family and friends, keep it light-hearted and kind – don’t talk about your case. Better yet: take a break from social media and schedule some time to meet with friends in person – there is nothing like real-life support during this emotional time.
- Educate Yourself. Learn about the basics of the divorce process in your state. These days, the internet makes it easy to find information. Look at reliable sources including the state’s bar association website, or the state courts’ websites. Make a list of questions specific to your case so that you don’t forget during your first consultation. Investigate whether you believe mediation is an option in your case (for example, if you and your spouse are keeping things friendly and both want the divorce, you might be able to mediate).
- Prepare Your Self-Care. Make a few appointments with a therapist, start a gym routine, or set times for free or creative space for yourself. Understand your limits: this process is an emotional roller-coaster and you are just one person. Divorce fights feel like no other, especially in cases where there is heightened animosity. This type of fighting strikes at your every insecurity and can leave you feeling so personally under-fire that you don’t want to face much else. Have your close friends and/or family on stand-by for support.
- Big Picture Goals. Write out a list of your goals for your divorce and for after the case is over. Picture what life will be like after this bend in the road. How can you use this opportunity to create a more fulfilling and better life for yourself and your family (even though your family may look different than it did before)? This may not have been what you hoped for your marriage, but step-back and try to find the positive side to the adventure. Remember: everyday starts fresh with no mistakes.
Every marriage and every divorce is different, but a good lawyer can help you get control and move forward with confidence no matter what the situation.
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