By now it is common knowledge to many that the volume of divorce filings tends to increase after the winter holiday season; however, a recent study from the University of Washington may provide the first-ever evidence of a biannual spike in divorce rates.
This study examined monthly divorce filings in Washington from 2001 to 2015, and uncovered a surprising (and consistent) increase in filing rates every March and August during that time. This pattern persisted from county to county over the time period examined, disregarding external factors that could be seen to affect divorce rates like the economy, the availability of local attorneys, or even the weather.
Interestingly, while other “family” court filings (like guardianship petitions) closely followed the spikes and lulls in divorce filings, more tenuously-related claims (like foreclosures or consumer collection actions) did not, suggesting that the divorce cycle operates independently from other societal and economic factors.
Some Couples Stay Together For The Holidays — Planning To Separate Afterward
One of the sociologists behind this study frames its results in the context of a “domestic ritual” calendar, hypothesizing that each increase in divorce filings predictably comes on the heels of a holiday season. In some cases, couples may have made the decision to divorce before the holidays, but feel pressured to stay together for the sake of the children or other loved ones who prefer the image of an “intact” family during gatherings.
In other cases, attending holiday gatherings together or scheduling a summer vacation at the beach may represent a last-ditch (but ultimately unsuccessful) effort to save a marriage. And in a few cases, the forced togetherness and hurt feelings that can sometimes come part and parcel with holiday gatherings may be enough for some couples to decide they no longer want to remain married.
After revealing this pattern in Washington, researchers began to examine divorce filings in Ohio, Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona – despite the variances in divorce laws and economic factors between these states, the biannual post-holiday divorce spike appears to hold firm.