Think of the profile of a cat’s head: the curved side, a pointy ear, a curved top, another ear, and a curved side down. This isn’t just one of our favorite household pets . . . it also happens to be shape of a graph that tracks the rise and fall of divorce filings. This shape has been coined the Cat of Sadness.
To be clear, the Cat of Sadness is not the name researchers gave their original work. But the cat’s two ears, March and August, show clear spikes in divorce. Though this may sound like a typical urban legend or internet myth, divorce season really exists.
That Cat of Sadness
When CNN spread wide the work of University of Washington (UW) researchers, associate sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini, the news organization snarkily labeled the researchers’ scholarly work with the aforementioned Cat of Sadness tag. Digging deeper than CNN’s glib summary, we can uncover some hard realities about the relationship between seasons and divorce:
- After winter holidays, from January through March, divorce filings rise, peaking in March
- From late March through the summer, divorce filings decline a bit, but do not fall to near-zero
- After the long, hot summer, divorce filings also spike in August, then drop off
- From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, very few divorces are filed
All I Want for Christmas
The researchers documented the sheer numbers, in Washington state, from 2001 through 2015, and noticed the alignment with what they call the “domestic ritual calendar.” If you have fond memories of an almost magical December holiday—even if the present-day reality never comes close—you are unlikely to choose Thanksgiving or Christmas as a time to start getting divorced.
In reviewing her research for UW’s Office of News & Information, Brines said, “People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past. 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 a Gift
These emotionally charged moments are often viewed as times to heal, as if the holiday magic can rub off in real life. Couples try to persevere through Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or even New Year’s, hoping somehow their differences will reconcile. It’s a gift many hope to open during festive, family times—a quick fix to a deeply fractured marriage.
Trying to avoid being the Grinch also plays into this, says family and divorce lawyer Miles Mason. “People don’t want to be accused by friends and family,” Mason told CNN, “that they were heartless right before Christmas.”
The Divorce Resolution
When the Christmas miracle fails to materialize, troubled couples seek out divorce attorneys right after New Year’s. With a newfound resolution to make a break from a difficult year, these men and women start filing for divorce in numbers that steadily climb until the March peak.
January’s nickname among some attorneys is “Divorce Month” for this very reason. Mason points out that hard money comes into play, too. Year-end bonuses and tax ramifications may help push a person to contact a lawyer January 2.
Beginning with meeting an attorney in January often leads to filing for divorce in March. Tax time, a month later, takes on new meaning: it is the last tax return for the couple as married, filing jointly.
The second cat ear, in August, comes during the traditional doldrums of the year. Most of summer’s sweetness has passed. With a new school year just ahead, strained relationships boil over and parents of school-age children realize they cannot continue with their strained, current arrangements.
They know they face a school year of parent-teacher conferences; athletic, band, and drama events; and countless trips in the parental taxi. Eager to move on, the estranging couple files just before the start of the school year, thinking the mental cloud will lift as they work out shared responsibilities and custody.
The Monster of Vacation?
Another reason for August filings is the parent’s reputation. Children look forward all year to summer vacation, whether the family is crammed in a camper or taking the Orlando Odyssey. You already worry about the emotional damage a divorce may have on your children; why turn yourself into a monster in their memories by ruining summer vacation with a June or July divorce filing?
When is the Perfect Time to Get Divorced?
Every couple faces unique challenges. The ages of your children, your joint finances, job prospects and extended family relationships all play into decisions about divorce. The perfect time to file for divorce varies from person to person.
You can find a perfect time to begin talking to a divorce attorney, however. Once you know in your heart a divorce is right for you, contact an experienced attorney for an initial consultation. Whether you meet January 2, July, or December 24, together you and your attorney at The Firm for Men can lay out a plan for proceeding with the divorce that fits you and your family. Contact The Firm for Men online today or call us to schedule a consultation at 757-383-9184.