Some ring in the new year with champagne at midnight. Others wait a week and partake in "Divorce Day."
The day – which comes across like a made-up, faux holiday to celebrate the ending of once-stated nuptials – actually refers to the first post-holidays Monday when law firms receive a spike in new divorce filings.
Kimberly Cook, a partner at Chicago law firm Schiller DuCanto & Fleck, said she returned from vacation Monday and already has four inquiries about setting up meetings this week alone.
"There's a surge on this day," she said, "which comes from people having a sense of urgency."
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The uptick continues through the rest of January, Cook said, largely due to the hope of a clean, fresh start in the new year.
"People have this renewed sense of not having a repeat of the last couple of years," she said. "A lot of times the holidays and the end of the year was somebody's last straw. The decision to file at this time usually is due to resolving to take the relationship and life in a new direction; it's similar to the surge in gym memberships. It's signifying that you can't live like this another year."
Cook calls January the "hangover month," saying that between Thanksgiving and New Year's there's often one last binge on family time, or even one last attempt at saving a marriage. But when the rubber meets the road, she said, "you wake up and you feel sick, like, 'I can't do this anymore and I've got to do something about it.' "
If you find your marriage lacking the ring-ting-tingle that once was, Cook offers a few thinking points before deciding to sign or serve those papers.
Don't rush. Divorce is certainly a serious decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. If you haven't tried marriage or couples counseling (and assuming you're not in a domestic violence situation) consider meeting with somebody. There are no guarantees it will work, but when you settle on filing for divorce, it needs to be a decision you've thought through.
Explore the process. It doesn't hurt to meet with a lawyer, ask questions and know your options. Get a feel for your legal rights before throwing down the gauntlet. Do your homework and research, especially when kids are involved. People are better off taking a step back and understanding how the process works, Cook said. And laws can change, so get informed about how the current rules will impact your specific situation.
Keep the kids in mind. Don't suffer through an unhappy relationship for the sake of the kids – they pick up on things and model certain behaviors, but they're also resilient. Parents will often stay in relationships for 15 or 20 years "for the kids" and later they'll tell you, "I would have been OK" Cook said.
Be shocked, but take action. If you get served with divorce papers at the beginning of the year, don't put your head in the sand – meet with someone right away. It can be shell-shocking, stuffing the papers in a drawer won't make the situation go away.