A commonly held notion in family law practices is that January is divorce month. In my years as a divorce attorney in the Inland Empire, some of my busiest times have been January into February.
There is even some nationwide data available confirming that January divorce month is a thing. Google Trends data suggests that people are searching for divorce most often during the first week of January!
It’s not all that surprising. Why might January be such a hot month to for interest in divorce? From what I have heard from clients, it’s a combination of two reasons: the end of the holiday season, and the beginning of tax season.
During the holidays, spouses try to make things work for their children. They might keep a relationship that is usually full of friction amicable to keep up appearances for extended family and friends. After the New Years letdown rolls around, the normal bickering resurfaces. Or else, the fighting around the holidays ruined the season for everyone and that signals that they would be happier leading separate lives.
The other reason is the arrival of tax returns. The W-2 comes in early January, people file their taxes, and suddenly they have a few thousand dollars of disposable income. Fresh off the holidays where they spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars on gifts for their children and family members, they decide it’s time to spend money on their own happiness and peace of mind, so they go out and retain the best divorce lawyer they can find.
Divorce Is a Year-Long Affair
The truth about family law is that every season has busy periods for a variety of different reasons. For reasons that we discussed above, the first quarter of the year tends to see a lot of spouses filing petitions and responses to initiate a divorce. By spring, those couples start to appear in court.
However, you should understand that divorce is by law, at minimum, a six month and one day process. Rarely is it over with that quickly. If couples agree to everything, which is again rare, they might get a divorce decree in seven to eight months. If there are any disagreements at all, you’re looking at a year, 18 months, maybe more depending on the extent of discovery and litigation needed.
The timeline depends on the unique facts of an individual divorce case. But generally speaking, you might expect to work out custody and visitation matters— like moving through CCRC and establishing a parenting plan—in around three months, at minimum. After custody and visitation, couples start working on support and property division issues which usually takes another four to five months, sometimes longer, to reach an agreement about those items.
Informed Parents Modify Custody Orders in December and January
For families with younger children, the school year tends to drive the calendar year, so different patterns arise because of that. Specifically, we’re talking about parents who have primary custody and wish to move a substantial distance away from a parent with visitation. A move away case is where the distance in any proposed move would substantially interfere with the current parenting plan.
When school ends in June, we see a rise in people asking the court to modify orders to grant a move away. The custodial parent wants to arrange for their child to start at a new school by late August or September when the new school year starts. The request from the court is usually required because if the parties have joint legal custody, the parties must agree on educational decisions, including changing the schools.
That means, for parents that wait until June to start the move away process, it’s already too late.
Few parents understand a move away takes a minimum of seven to eight months to push through family court unless they are already familiar with the system. Judicial officials do not issue emergency temporary orders allowing a move away as each party is generally entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the issue. An informed party usually commences the request to move in December and January. Thus, also increasing the volume of cases filed at the beginning of the year
Want a Quicker Resolution? Start Sooner
There is no real way to rush through a divorce or custody matter. If it’s clear that your marriage has ended, or that you want to start a new life somewhere else, the only real way to make that happen faster is to start the process sooner. Get in touch with a competent family law attorney to guide onto a better path for you and your children.
About the Author
Jeremy N. Roark has practiced family law exclusively in the Inland Empire for over ten years. He has experience in handling divorce cases and related legal issues, such as child custody and support, asset division, spousal support, custody jurisdiction and domestic violence and restraining orders.