Divorce: Should You Wait Until the New Year?
If you are considering a divorce, are already facing a divorce, or have already made the painful decision that you need a divorce, you face a rocky path forward that is sure to be as emotionally complicated as it is legally. If you have control over when to file for divorce, for example, you may be wondering about whether waiting for the new year is the best course of action, and there is a lot to consider. Let’s take a closer look.
It is widely thought that divorces increase in the new year, and January has even been dubbed divorce month by many. This is not exactly a rosy picture, but according to The New York Times, the truth about the matter of whether or not the new year turns couples’ thoughts to divorce is far more complicated than you might think (like most things related to divorce). One truth that cannot be denied is that some divorce lawyers do see an increase in divorce cases after the holidays, but the only issue that should matter to you or should affect when you file is what is right for you (considering your unique situation and your divorce priorities).
The findings forwarded in The New York Times are something of a mixed bag.
New Year, New You
The co-founder and chief executive of the National Association of Divorce Professionals – which includes divorce lawyers, tax advisors, and therapists who are typically involved in divorce proceedings – do find that divorce is seasonal and that divorce professionals often see a dry spell in relation to divorce from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. The thought is that many couples put off what they have come to see as inevitable until after the holidays when it is out with the old and in with the new.
Google Does Not Lie
Would Google lie to you? While you may be able to find suspect information on Google, the information forwarded by the company regarding search trends are precise, and the fact is that, for 2019, searches for the term divorce were in the most popular category (by a slight margin) from January 6 to January 12, and the term was also trending upward from the end of December 2019 through the first week of 2020. In other words, people do amp up their divorce-related searches around the new year, but there are also other peaks throughout the year.
Thinking About Is Not the Same as Doing
Searching for divorce information on the internet is not the same as filing for divorce, and some people engage in such searches as more of a release valve than as an indication that they are gearing up for a divorce. In fact, looking at the cold, hard facts of divorce helps some people who are considering divorce dig a bit deeper and try a bit harder to save their marriages. Finally, divorce is not an instant proposition, and considering divorce in January or calling an attorney for a consult in January can mean that filing is months away.
A Note about the Holidays
The holidays are a magical time with family, friends, and loved ones, but all that sparkle and shine can also highlight just how bleak one’s marriage has become (if that is – indeed – the case). Living through yet another lonely Christmas (in the middle of marriage) can be the final straw for some couples.
Even couples, however, who have come to the conclusion that it is time for divorce may want to put it off until after the holidays – in an attempt not to ruin their children’s holiday season and in an effort not to equate the holidays with divorce in their children’s minds moving forward. These couples also have a valid point to make. If it is your most ardent wish to protect your children through the holidays before filing for and announcing your divorce to them, that is your decision to make, and you should let it guide you.
Whether or not waiting to file until the new year is beneficial in terms of your taxes is another issue worth considering, and the answer – as usual – is that it depends on wide-ranging factors. Very generally, filing jointly is beneficial, but in the State of Texas, you are married until you are divorced, which means that waiting to file in the new year is not going to alter your filing status for 2021 based on the fact that there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period before your divorce can be finalized in the State, to begin with.
If taxes are the major factor holding you back regarding when you should file for divorce, you can put this concern to rest for 2021 – and should simply file when the time is right for you.
Is Divorce Even What You Want?
If you have done the soul-searching regarding divorce and know that it is the right path for you, that is one thing, but if you are on the fence on the matter, it is quite another. Ultimately, you need to be sure that divorce is the right answer for you, and if your marriage can be saved, that is almost certain to be a better choice. Toward this end, there are options you can try, including:
Discussing your concerns with a trusted friend, counselor, or member of your church
Seeking marital counseling with your spouse
Giving yourself the time you need to be sure (there is no expiration date or deadline for pursuing a divorce)
Trusting your gut on the matter – if you think you are simply going through a rough patch, you may want to give it time, but if you know in your heart that it is over, there is no reason to beat yourself up about it
Making the Call
If you have done the work and know that divorce is the right decision for you, you may think it is a bad idea to consult with a divorce attorney before you are ready to pull the trigger and file (such as if you are waiting to do so in the new year). While many people believe that consulting with a divorce attorney is tantamount to announcing your divorce to the world, this simply is not true.
If you and your spouse came to this decision together, you probably have no qualms about getting started on your divorce prior to the new year, but if you have made the decision unilaterally, you may have a sense that moving forward by consulting with a divorce attorney is underhanded – or somehow dishonest – but you should cut yourself some slack on this one.
Consulting with a Divorce Attorney
One of the universal truths of divorce is that it is a complicated legal process that requires a lot of preparation. The divorce terms that are related to your finances, which are often the most explosive terms, are ultimately resolved in accordance with financial documentation, and all that documentation can take a considerable amount of time to compile.
This makes getting started earlier rather than later in your best interest. Once a divorce begins heating up, the sheer emotion of it can lead to upsets and skirmishes that can make accessing the documentation that is readily available right now far more complicated. Take advantage of the calm before the nearly inevitable storm and get started now. Other benefits to consulting with a dedicated divorce attorney sooner rather than later include:
Your divorce attorney will help you better understand what to expect moving forward.
Your divorce attorney will give you an idea of how the court would likely rule in your case (based on extensive experience handling divorces like yours)
Your divorce attorney will help you keep your expectations in line with reality.
Your divorce attorney will help you determine your divorce priorities – those issues that matter most to you and that you are willing to go to bat for – and those issues that you are far more willing to make compromises regarding. This can help you formulate negotiation strategies ahead of the game.
Your divorce attorney will help you set the tone for your divorce, which can go a long way toward keeping things amicable and which, in turn, can go a long way toward helping to make this difficult transition in your family’s life as smooth and drama-free as possible.
Once you have made it this far in the process – even if you are waiting to bring the matter up with your spouse in the new year – it is important to have a good handle on the divorce basics. Divorce is a complicated legal matter – in addition to being an emotional obstacle course – and while yours will be utterly unique to you and your situation, the divorce basics do not vary.
The Terms of Your Divorce
The basic terms of a divorce are, generally speaking, the same across the board, and each that applies in your situation should be allowed the careful legal attention it deserves. The terms of your divorce will directly affect both your parental and financial rights post-divorce, which makes paying prior attention imperative.
Your Child Custody Arrangements
In Texas, child custody is divided into both legal custody and physical custody, and while both can be sole or joint, it is very unusual for a parent to be cut out of his or her right to visitation with his or her children entirely – without a significant reason for taking such drastic action. Texas courts make every child-related decision with the best interests of the children in mind, and because the prevailing wisdom finds that continuing to have a relationship with both parents is nearly universally preferable, the courts generally attempt to maximize the amount of time children spend with both parents.
Legal custody refers to who will be making the big, important parenting decisions moving forward, including:
Decisions about your children’s schooling
Decisions about your children’s health care
Decisions about your children’s religious upbringing
Decisions about your children’s extracurricular activities
Physical custody refers to the schedule by which you and your children’s other parent will divide your time with your children, and at their most basic, your options include dividing your parenting time equally (or nearly so) and making one of you the primary custodial parent with whom your children spend the majority of their overnights – while the other has a visitation schedule.
The Division of Marital Property
In Texas, that property that you and your spouse amass while you are married – as offset by the debts you take on – is considered marital property, and in the event of divorce, it must be divided equitably between you. Equitably here means fairly when a wide range of factors that the court deems relevant have been considered. While your separate property will remain your own, maintaining the separate nature of assets in the financial melee of a marriage can be exceptionally difficult.
Child support is calculated according to state guidelines, which means there is little room for variance. The factors that carry the most weight include the number of overnights that each of you spends with your children and your separate incomes (relative to one another).
Alimony is not as common as it once was, and these payments are reserved for those divorces in which one spouse experiences a financial deficit and the other has the financial resources to help offset it.
Do Not Delay Consulting with an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is an accomplished divorce attorney who recognizes how difficult making the initial call related to divorce can be and who has the compassion to help take the sting out – to the degree possible. Your case is important, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.