Tracking Divorce Rates by the Season

Tracking Divorce Rates by the Season

By M. Scott Gordon

Do Chicago area residents tend to file for divorce with more frequency during specific time of the year? While it might not immediately sound likely, divorce rates do tend to spike during particular seasons. According to a recent article from Bloomberg, a new study conducted by sociology researchers at the University of Washington determined that divorce filings tend to be at their highest at two different times of year: in March and in August. What is driving more people to file for divorce at these particular times of the year? And, on the flip side, what leads to downturns in divorce filings at other times of the year?

The sociology study is, according to the American Sociological Association, the “first systematic, quantitative evidence of a pronounced and durable ‘seasonal’ pattern in the timing of filings for divorce.” The researchers came to some interesting conclusions that we would like to explore in greater detail.

The “Social Clock” That Governs Families and Couples

The findings from the recent study determined that more people file for divorce in March and August than at other times of the year. Divorce filings, the article further clarifies, are at all-time lows in November and December, and they also tend to drop during the month of April. What is behind these spikes and plunges? In short, it looks as though we may be able to track divorce trends alongside commonly celebrated American holidays. The authors of the study, Professor of Sociology Julie Brines and Brian Serafini, a doctoral candidate in the field, explained how “family life is governed by a ‘social clock’ that mandates the observations of birthdays, holidays, and other special transitions.”

In other words, even when couples are having problems in their marriages, they tend to stay together—as the data suggests—during certain holiday seasons. As the authors of the study make clear, these trends hold true regardless of economic conditions in the United States.

Explaining the Seasonal Divorce Trend

Why are holidays a time to avoid divorce filings? The researchers describe certain holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s, as “socially sensitive periods in the calendar.” They explain that “vacations and holidays make people optimistic about the future and instill the belief that they can repair their relationships.” For many couples, that optimism tends to last for at least a couple of months beyond the major winter holidays. Yet after the holidays are over and spouses have a chance to reassess stress levels, they “find themselves more unhappy than before their vacations began,” according to the study.

To put it another way, the rituals of the holiday season—as well as summer vacations—can lead a couple to think that there might be hope for the relationship. However, as vacations from work and the excitement of holidays ends, old emotions tend to come back to the surface. Brines and Serafini call this the “broken promise theory.”

Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer in the Chicago area

Are you thinking about filing for divorce? If you are thinking about divorce but have unanswered questions, an experienced divorce lawyer in the Chicago area can help. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC to learn more about how we assist Chicago residents with a wide variety of issues surrounding divorce and family law.