American Divorce Day

January 5th is Considered Divorce Day in the U.S.

On January 5, 1643, Anne Clarke was granted a divorce from her husband, Denis Clarke, by the Quarter Court of Boston. Mr. Clarke admitted to deserting his wife and their two children, and also to fathering two more children with another woman. Because he refused to return to his wife, the court had the right to grant his wife a divorce and also punish him criminally. While the Clarkes' divorce is largely regarded as the first in U.S. history, many historians say the first U.S. divorce was granted to Mrs. James Luxford on December 3, 1639, on the grounds of bigamy. In addition to granting the divorce, the court criminally punishment to the husband consisting of a fine, an hour in the stocks, and exile to England.

Since then, the U.S. divorce process has undergone many changes. Today, in most states divorce is primarily an administrative matter as long as it is uncontested and the right paperwork is filed at the right time. A high percentage of U.S. divorces are filed pro se, or without an attorney, and half of the states will grant a divorce without either party appearing in court. With modern divorce being so accessible, it makes it easier to get divorced when the time is right. Divorce filings and online searches for divorce-related terms drop to an annual low between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which makes sense since holidays are a time when more people are willing to put aside differences and focus on family. Beginning in January though, there is a dramatic spike in interest in divorce, so much so that January has become known as "Divorce Month." Divorce in the New Year is compatible with a renewed desired to make changes and sometimes that includes ending bad relationships.

Divorce and Taxes

When it comes to filing your income taxes, your marital status on December 31st is your marital status for the entire year. Waiting until the New Year to file for divorce allows spouses who prefer to file jointly to do so for the previous year's taxes. Additionally, Americans who receive tax refunds are able to use those funds toward divorce-related expenses like court filing fees, unless a fee waiver is granted, and relocation costs when a spouse moves out.

Summer Divorce Peak

The upsurge begins in January and continues through March, peaking in late February through March. Given the emotional and financial consequences of divorce, it is no surprise that people use January and February as a planning period, but actually file in March. August also sees a spike in divorce filings. Just as people wait to get through the winter holiday before filing, a similar sentiment may exist about summer, especially when there are children on break and family vacations to go on. Summer provides a break from the school schedule, and it may also be better for the children to be off school when they are experiencing the initial stress of their parents filing for divorce.

Preparing to File in the New Year

There are a few things you can do to help yourself prepare for divorce in the New Year. Among other things, this means making a list of your assets and debts as well as your income and expenses. Collecting this information will also make it easier to complete your divorce paperwork. Also, you will need to decide if you want to file pro se or hire an attorney. You should also find out if your state requires a divorce hearing and if so, what you should expect to happen at the hearing.

Notable Firsts in American Divorce

January 1, 1970: California becomes the first state to offer a no-fault divorce option. The governor at the time, future President Ronald Reagan, would later call his decision to sign California's no-fault bill into law one of the biggest mistakes of his political career. Reagan was also the first divorced president in U.S. history. He and actress Jane Wyman divorced in 1943.

December 8, 2004: The first gay divorce in the U.S. granted in Suffolk County, Massachusetts by a male couple who married on May 22, 2004, five days after Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage

August 22, 2014: Florida couple, Keith Hinson and Michelle Knight, post their infamous "divorce selfie."

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