Is January Actually ‘Divorce Month’?

Is January Actually ‘Divorce Month’?

If you are shivering in your Uggs because of more than the cold January weather outside, namely because “divorce month” has arrived, you are not alone. Once January hits, many couples replace those sugar plums dancing in their heads over Christmas with thoughts of whether they should pursue a divorce, giving the first month of the year its moniker. But that January is actually divorce month? Not so fast.

According to a 2020 article in The New York Times, classifying January as divorce month could be misleading, given how some of the numbers tell a different story. As the article points out, though there may be an uptick in people calling a divorce lawyer, those individuals may not necessarily file for divorce in January, particularly if their state has a waiting period before filing, which Washington state does not, or they simply haven’t made up their minds yet. 

Making matters more confusing, divorce month could imply the month divorces settle most frequently. But that wouldn’t necessarily be January either since when a divorce ends may also depend on a state’s prescribed waiting period before a divorce can be completed. For example, Washington state has a 90-day waiting period from when an individual files for divorce to when they can finalize it. So, even if you file for divorce in January, realistically, you wouldn’t be divorced for at least three months. And then, that would be optimistic. More about how long a divorce takes below.  

Misleading as the term divorce month may be, one thing does ring true in the new year: January is an excellent time for a fresh start. So, if you are considering divorce during January, aka divorce month (or any month), here are a few things to consider.

Divorce takes time.

In addition to the waiting period mentioned above, divorce takes time, given how much information you must gather for your lawyer to analyze. The information you collect — financial records, property deeds, prenuptial agreements, and any other relevant documents — will inform your decision-making, with your lawyer serving as your guide. The decisions you must make will concern the following.

Asset Division

Asset division is a crucial aspect of divorce. Assets include real property, bank accounts, investments, and more. Washington state is an equitable distribution state, meaning equitable won’t necessarily mean equal. Courts will consider the length of the marriage, what constitutes separate and marital property, and the spouses’ respective economic situations at the time of division. Debt is also divisible in divorce.  

Spousal Support

You may be eligible for spousal support or obligated to pay spousal support as part of your divorce. Spousal support is financial support one spouse pays the other for a duration after divorce. 

In Washington state, you can seek spousal support, beginning at separation. The determination of spousal support will depend on the recipient’s demonstrated need and the payer’s ability to meet such need. 

More specifically, the relative financial requirements of both individuals, the person paying’s ability to meet financial obligations considering their other financial commitments, the length of the marriage, the ages and physical and emotional well-being of each party, and the financial resources of the requesting spouse will all be factors in the amount awarded and over what period. So will each spouse’s share of community property, any existing child support orders, and whether one spouse has made any sacrifices regarding career opportunities for the benefit of the family, such as being a stay-at-home parent.

Parenting Time 

If you and your spouse are parents, you and your spouse must agree on parenting time. Once decided, a parenting plan will memorialize the terms you agree to in writing. 

A parenting plan will also include who has decision-making authority and details about where the child will live. The parenting plan could encompass other information about the child’s upbringing, such as their religion and where and how they will spend their summers. 

Child Support

In Washington state, child support is calculated according to a predetermined formula. Typically, the non-residential parent will pay the residential parent child support. 

When determining child support, the court considers various factors, including the reasonable expenses of caring for the children. Additionally, the court will look at the number of days each parent spends with the child, as outlined in the parenting plan. 

The court also examines each parent’s income, as well as their necessary expenses not directly related to child support, such as expenditures for student loan payments and the costs associated with commuting to work.

A word about alternative dispute resolution …

If there are sticking points on any of these issues, you don’t need to see the inside of a courtroom to resolve them. Mediation is one way to come to an agreement amicably during a divorce. 

Mediation works like this: a divorcing couple comes together alongside their respective attorneys to discuss issues they cannot agree on. After raising their points, a third party, known as a mediator, will make suggestions, guiding them toward a decision. The parties can each retreat to a separate room during mediation to speak privately with their counsel. The mediator may also go between both rooms to facilitate decision-making. 

Emotional support is available. 

Divorce can be scary, plain and simple, as well as emotionally grueling. The good news is that you don’t need to go through it alone. If you are contemplating divorce, it is helpful to begin assembling a divorce team now. 

The first addition to your team should be an emotionally intelligent law firm equipped with family law attorneys and support staff with the training and experience needed to handle not only divorce but issues related to it. A perfect example of this would be a family law firm with an estate planning practice, as divorce raises many questions about the effect a divorce will have on an individual’s estate plan.

Also on your team could be a divorce support group, a divorce coach, a mental health professional (a therapist and possibly a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication), a certified divorce financial planner, trusted friends, family, or clergy members, and anyone else you deem reliable, honest, and empathetic to your situation. 

Divorce involves more than one fresh start. 

Much goes into planning for life after divorce, and the right family law attorney can be essential to implementing those plans, beginning with the educational resources and professional network they have to share with you. Life is long, and your future is unknown, which is a good thing because, in many respects, you will have a clean slate to make positive changes for you and your children.

As part of your post-divorce life, you may need to make plans involving your finances, a new home, and, down the road, possibly another marriage or relationship for which you could require a cohabitation agreement. The family law attorney who helped you through your divorce can continue supporting you long after your divorce with an estate plan or a prenuptial agreement, for example, and by enforcing your rights under your existing divorce agreement, should you need such assistance.      

Find a Washington state divorce lawyer.

Whether you believe January is divorce month or not or believe it is in certain respects, it is critical to think about your situation objectively. A skilled family lawyer can help, even if you are currently unsure of your path and whether a divorce will be one of your destinations. 

At Elise Buie Family Law, our team of divorce and estate planning attorneys understands that every divorce is unique, like the individuals going through it. With decades of cumulative experience between us, we have the knowledge and resources to guide you through every step, explaining with clear language what is happening so you don’t have to guess and can feel safe and secure where you may not have felt so before. Call our Seattle office today.

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