For married couples, late summer may bring more than warm, sunny days and a bout of hay fever. Research suggests that divorce filings spike twice a year – in March and August. We find this to be the case in our firm, too. Both months follow busy holiday seasons when families spend plenty of time together for special events and activities. And is one of the reasons we see so many summer divorces.
Summer is hectic, everybody is home, the kids go to a different camp every week, and big family trips are planned. Say a couple has pre-paid for a family trip to Hawaii. They can’t get their money back, the kids are excited about the trip, and who wants to deprive them of the experience? There are many reasons a parent may think it’s best to wait until after the vacation to file for divorce.
People also want to get through the end of the year for a multitude of reasons – the finality of the holiday season, tax year, or starting the year off fresh – so they call a divorce lawyer after New Year’s and file in March.
Most parents don’t want to do anything drastic – like file for divorce – during the holidays. They often feel it’s better to wait and get back into a regular routine and kids are back in school most of the day.
Headed for a Sumer Divorce? Understanding the Warning Signs
August and March may reap the highest percentage of divorce filings, but signs of a troubled marriage typically show up far in advance. Some people just feel it in their gut, or they feel a distance growing between themselves and their spouse.
People may also behave differently after seeing a divorce attorney, such as trying to look like a better parent or being more diligent about documenting things. For example, they may send self-serving emails, “I just registered Johnny for soccer camp, volunteered to help at Susie’s choir fundraiser, etc.,” or become more proactive about filling out paperwork at school. They’re probably doing what we call “papering” or documenting, which is something a divorce lawyer would advise a client to do in anticipation of a divorce.
Obviously, catching a spouse cheating is a clear sign a marriage is on the rocks. Conversely, other people may suspect they’re being followed, which could happen if their spouse wants to find out if they’re cheating or not. In the same vein, when sex is absent from a relationship, that could indicate a partner is having an extramarital affair.
Another sign is when a spouse changes the way they manage finances. For example, if all of a sudden, a husband or wife’s paycheck – or a big portion of it – is no longer being direct deposited into the joint checking account, or other money is being moved around, something might be up.
Beating the Odds
It’s so easy to get completely lost in the routine and the demands of the daily grind. For people who want to lower the odds of falling victim to seasonal divorce trends – especially those with children – it’s really vital to carve out time to spend together with their spouse.
The days are long, but the years are short. One day you have a baby, and the next, you wake up with a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old, look at your spouse and wonder, “Who are you? Where did the time go?” or worse, “I don’t even like you anymore.”
People have to commit to taking care of their relationships. Even though many people feel guilty about taking a date night or spending a few days away from the kids or the office – especially if they both work – that dedicated time together will pay off in the long term.
Kids also need to know how important it is for mom and dad to have alone time together. It helps to explain that, “Before you were born, it was just mom and dad, and we loved that part of our life, too. We love you more, but we still love to be around each other and want to maintain our healthy adult relationship.”
No matter how much parental guilt a couple feels for taking time out of life to nurture a marital relationship, it pales in comparison to the amount of guilt, shame, and dismay that comes when a marriage fails – for the kids and the parents.
When a Summer Divorce is Inevitable
Along with finding a great therapist, my advice is to always remember that divorce is a process, not an event. There will be times in that journey and process that will feel worse than imagined and others that won’t be as bad as expected. Over the long haul, if that person is making the right decision, everything will probably come out in the wash.
People considering divorce should also read, educate themselves and try to learn as much about the process as possible. It’s also essential to hire a divorce attorney who is on the same page regarding what that person wants to get out of the divorce and how to approach the process. Once the attorney understands the client’s goals, he or she can come up with a game plan and explain steps to expect along the way.
Another important thing to remember is that kids are really resilient. For parents who have trepidations about going through divorce, seeing that resilience in their children often provides the courage and encouragement needed to move forward.
The Financial Impact of Divorce
At the outset, divorce can certainly put a drain on cash reserves for lawyer’s fees and fees for other experts or professionals related to the divorce process. Fees may be needed for a forensic accountant to track the money, an amicus attorney for a child or a therapist to help the family cope. Hiring a financial planning expert is another expense, but it can be very beneficial.
An analysis should also be performed financially to figure out whether or not each party can live independently of the other and what the impact will be on the individuals’ daily lives. This insight is necessary to determine how assets will be divided between the two.
It’s one thing to divide cash and real estate and non-income earning assets, but how will the couple’s income be impacted? Common questions to consider include:
- Will the couple need to sell the house and split proceeds to generate cash to settle the case?
- Will they need to sell a business?
- If they agree to stay in business, will they share profits?
- Will one party get a stock plan that pays out sizeable dividends each year? Or …
- Will they get cash that doesn’t offer a return on investment?
- Will either party need to get a job?
People also need to consider a key threshold question, “How am I going to live post-divorce if there are not sufficient assets to take care of me for the rest of my life?” It’s critical to look at all of the pieces of the puzzle and how they can be moved around in a divorce settlement, especially for a non-monied spouse. Experienced divorce attorneys can help clients navigate these and other financial questions.
A founding member of Connatser & Associates, Aubrey Connatser is regularly invited to appear on national television and panels to address key issues of family law. As a leading advocate of creating access to legal resources, she was the first endowment donor for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. www.connatserfamilylaw.com