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.

Why January?

Making It Through the Holidays

The number of people filing for divorce drops to an annual low between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holidays are the time of year when people are most willing to put aside differences and focus on family, and no one wants to be seen as the one who wrecked Christmas by calling it quits during the holidays. However, beginning in January divorce attorneys and online divorce form providers see a dramatic spike in people getting serious about divorce. New Year's resolutions involve wanting to make changes for the better and for people in unhealthy relationships, that often means deciding to get out. Not surprisingly then, January has become known as "Divorce Month." More information on preparing for divorce in the new year is available here.

File Joint Income Tax Return

When it comes to filing your income taxes, your marital status on December 31st is your marital status for the entire year. In other words, 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, plenty of Americans wait until after the New Year to file for divorce so that they are able to use their tax refunds toward divorce-related expenses like attorney fees or do-it-yourself divorce products and divorce filing fees charged by the court clerk's office when the case is filed.

January Kicks Off Divorce Season

By analyzing online data, it's possible to determine the months that people most frequently search the internet for divorce-related terms. The data shows the upsurge begins in January and continues through March. For example, DivorceWriter has found that people searching for the term "DivorceWriter" in Google gains popularity in January, but peaks in late February through March. Given the emotional and financial consequences of divorce, it's really no surprise that people considering it take a couple of months, primarily January and February, as a divorce planning period, but actually pull the trigger by filing in March.

Divorces Also Peak at the End of Summer

In 2016, a University of Washington study found that, like March, August also sees a spike in divorce filings. Just as people wait to get through the winter holiday before filing, a similar sentiment exists during the summer. Filing after the annual summer vacation, but before children return to school, make sense. The family gets one last hurrah, but the transition can happen before the stress of the new school year begins. Besides a larger number of people doing searches for divorce in February and March, DivorceWriter's data also shows a smaller uptick in July and August.

Preparing to File in the New Year

There are a few things you can do to help yourself be better prepared 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. If you choose to represent yourself without a lawyer, you'll need to find reliable documents and instructions for your state. 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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