Is there such a thing as divorce season?
Researchers from the University of Washington have proven that yes – divorce has a season, two in fact.
They’ve found what is believed to be the first quantitative evidence of a seasonal, biannual pattern of divorce filings.
Associate sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini analyzed filings in Washington state between 2001 and 2015. The results show that filings consistently peaked in March and August, the periods following winter and summer holidays.
Researchers suggest that this biannual spike may be driven by a “domestic ritual” calendar. Winter and summer holidays are very sacred for many families, and it is a common belief that it is inappropriate or taboo to file for divorce during a holiday season.
“People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past,” Brines said in a press release. “They represent periods in the year when there’s 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.”
However holidays are so charged with emotion and stress that they can expose fissures in a marriage, researchers say.
Parents may decide to file for divorce in August because it is after the summer holidays and before school starts.
Researchers decided to put their theories to a test. The researchers reasoned that if the pattern was tied to family holidays, other court actions involving families — such as guardianship rulings — should show a similar pattern, while claims less related to the family structure wouldn’t. And by no surprise, they found exactly that.
They are now looking into whether or not a similar filing pattern can be identified in other states. They’ve expanded their research to include Ohio, Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona. These four states have similar divorce laws as Washington.
Although they’ve not yet completed this phase of their research, Brines has said that the pattern persisted.
“What I can tell you is that the seasonal pattern of divorce filings is more or less the same,” she said.
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- Written by Jill Fowler