January marks the start of a new year and an opportunity for fresh starts. And for some, that means filing for divorce.
“Historically, for the first couple of months, we do see a big increase in people coming in the door,” attorney Kindel Jenkins said. “Some say it’s a New Year’s resolution. ‘New year, new me. I won’t stay in a marriage that is miserable.’”
Galveston County statistics reflect a national trend that sees a spike in divorce filings during the first few months of the year, according to area divorce attorneys.
January 2017 saw 116 divorce filings in Galveston County, spiking to 210 in April before declining to 125 in August, according to data provided to The Daily News.
A 2016 University of Washington study showed that divorces tended to peak around the holidays.
“I attribute it to the holidays, wholeheartedly,” Jenkins said.
While the high stress of the holidays heightens problems in a relationship, the holiday itself isn’t the cause of the problem, Jenkins said.
Experts offered several reasons that could lead someone to file for divorce so shortly after the holidays.
“It’s human nature to try to stick together during the holidays and give it one more go,” Jenkins said. “Not only do I have a lot of new clients in January, but historically I’ll meet a lot prior to the holiday that stuck it out and gave it one last try and are back in my office in January.”
The stress of the holiday itself can also strain an already tumultuous relationship, Jenkins said.
“The holiday becomes the straw that broke the camel’s back,” attorney Kristina Lucas said.
Finances might also play a role in divorce filings rising after the holidays, Jenkins said. A lot of people decide to spend money on the holidays instead of legal fees related to divorce.
“So, they’ll wait until the holidays are over and that frees up money to retain an attorney,” Jenkins said.
Tax season could also play a role in when someone files for divorce, Lucas said.
“I’ve always attributed it to people getting their income tax returns and being able to afford to pay a retainer,” Lucas said.
Whatever the case, attorneys agreed that they are busier than usual this time of year.
“There are a disproportionate number of new cases in January,” attorney Shari Goldsberry said. “You may find a low number in December.”
The added stress of Hurricane Harvey might make 2018 a rougher year than most for divorce, Lucas said.
Harvey in late August caused massive flooding throughout the county.
“Add a natural disaster and losing homes, jobs and health to the stress of the holidays, and it makes it that much more difficult,” Lucas said.