Why do divorce rates surge in the spring?

According to a FindLaw.com report analyzing divorce filings across the U.S. between 2008 and 2011, divorces spike in January, continue to rise through February, and peak in March.

Why? The explanation may be simple. “While they’ve been thinking about divorce for some time, and taking steps such as obtaining marital counseling to save their marriage, many men and woman may put off their decision to file to avoid additional stress during the holiday season,” said Mark Ohnstad, an attorney with Thomsen Nybeck in Minneapolis.

But once the holidays are over, unhappy spouses begin considering the legal hurdles to dissolving their marriages. For example, in December 2010, there were approximately 10,000 searches for “divorce,” “child custody,” and “family law” on FindLaw.com, the top website for free, consumer-focused legal information. In January 2011, there were nearly 16,000 divorce-related searches.

If you’re beginning to contemplate divorce, here are a few questions you should ask:

  • Can your relationship be saved? Divorce can be expensive and traumatic. Before you rush into a decision, consider marital counseling or individual therapy sessions.
  • How can I make this easier on my children? Kids may not understand the reason why their parents choose to divorce. No matter how you feel about your soon-to-be-ex, take the high road when talking about your spouse in front of the kids.
  • How long will a divorce take? Most states require a six-month separation period before a divorce. Usually, couples must live in separate homes during this time. Separated couples are still legally married, so keep in mind that some states characterize outside adult relationships during the separation period as adultery.
  • Whose help do I need? Divorce is a major life event. You will need help and support from your family and friends, but most people need an even broader support network during a divorce. Try to find support groups for divorcees through local community organizations. You may also want to arrange for mental health counseling for yourself or your children to help you cope with the adjustments in your life.

If you decide to file for divorce, you will probably need to find an experienced divorce attorney to help you navigate the legal process. An attorney can explain your state’s property division and child custody laws, and help make a difficult process easier.

— Michelle Croteau, Director of Marketing Communications
with Robyn Hagan Cain, FindLaw Audience Team

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