THE BLOG

When Divorce Is A New Year's Resolution

12/28/2012 02:38 am ET | Updated Feb 26, 2013
  • Alton Abramowitz Past President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML)

While some couples may have kissed under the mistletoe this past holiday season, many others are destined for a date in divorce court. Matrimonial lawyers know that this time of year produces a very well-known annual event: After the champagne has flowed on New Year's Eve, divorce fillings and the number of new cases inevitably begin to spike.

Many unhappy spouses make the resolution to move forward with a divorce some time during the course of the previous year or possibly even longer before that. As is often the case, they choose to bide their time with a great deal of deliberation and patience. Remaining committed to spending one last holiday season as a family unit, the estranged spouse decides to make the best of it just one more time before announcing the decision to end the marriage.

When children are involved, this carefully made decision to delay the announcement may be the best choice for everyone involved. Of course, this is only as long as the family gatherings held during the holiday season remain free of uncomfortable frictions, confrontations and fighting.

On the other end of the spectrum, a miserable holiday season could push spouses to split. Frustrated and hurt too often, the last straw could be witnessing the other spouse's horrible behavior at the office holiday party or some other painful experience that ruins the season and represents a permanent injury to a strained marriage that was already in jeopardy.

In addition to these emotional and seasonal considerations, filing after New Year's Day may make sense from a financial perspective. One spouse may be awaiting an end-of-the-year bonus at work -- money that the other spouse would want added to the overall financial picture. Also, for tax purposes, the finances for the couple would be fixed for the entire preceding 12 months. This would certainly help make the division of the assets much easier to calculate once the divorce process begins in earnest.

While increased divorce filings after the holiday season are not surprising to matrimonial attorneys, it might come as a real shock to some spouses that find themselves caught off-guard by the announcement. If so, it is best to do everything in your power to control your emotions and maintain an even temper. By all means, do not blow up in a rage where you might say or do things that you will regret. This is a time to stay cool, calm, and collected and start playing catch-up by making your own preparations.

If you do not have control or adequate knowledge of your family's finances, it is essential that you start obtaining any files or information that can give you an accurate handle on what are the real numbers and dollar figures. You may be in a state of shock, but it is essential that you use your time as wisely as possible. It goes without saying that you should also retain the best matrimonial lawyer that you can find and move the process forward on equal footing with your spouse.

For most spouses, this time of year has been filled with celebrations and special family moments, but for some others, this December 31st has marked their last New Year's Eve as a married couple.