Not so Happy Holidays

Yes, “Divorce Day” actually exists. Find out why so many couples decide to call it quits on this day.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of “Divorce Day,” but talk to almost any lawyer and he or she will tell you it definitely exists. It’s the day when a huge number of couples initiate separation and divorce procedures around the globe. In 2017, Divorce Day falls on Monday, January 2nd and law offices around the country—and globe—are preparing.

So, why would someone wait until the first Monday of the New Year? For many, it’s about children and other family members. They may feel it’s best to try and make it a good “last” Christmas together before everything changes—no parent wants to ruin the holiday by announcing a separation or divorce.

Children are, in fact, a major reason that couples wait until after the holiday season to seek a divorce. Not only do they not want to upset them during what should be a happy time, but the holidays can become more stressful for divorced parents. They will need to consider parenting plans that allow them to spend time with their children during the holidays—in most cases, holidays will be traded off or split between parents. For the time being, it may seem best to get through one more holiday with the family intact. After a divorce, family traditions will change and it may be a challenge to deal with holidays in a new way.

Other major issues—usually lurking in the shadows—often come to light during the hectic and demanding holiday season. Topics that are normally avoided the rest of the year can no longer be ignored and rise to the surface to cause conflict.

The Top Stress-Inducing Issues

The topics that cause the most stress are no surprise, really. The issues below can produce conflict in any relationship at any time, but can truly hurt a marriage.

  • Money: One spouse may be upset that too much money was spent on Christmas gifts and entertainment.
  • Work: One spouse’s work demands added to the stress of the family’s overcrowded schedule of holiday festivities at school and church, with family and friends, or shopping.
  • Logistics: The mere logistics of Christmas and the challenge of finding ways to celebrate with two sets of grandparents and two extended families pushed one spouse or the other “over the edge.”
  • Faith: If one spouse sees faith as a priority, he or she may be upset that the season’s real purpose was left in the shadows by his or her partner—overtaken by the commercial aspects of the holiday.
  • The unexpected: Certain realities of life didn’t take a “holiday” for Christmas. Perhaps a child got sick and required care; an overdue notice of an unpaid bill arrived in the mail; the pipes burst; or the weather made travel a nightmare.

Stress is amplified when couples feel pushed and pulled in several seemingly impossible directions at once. Stress grows as couples become more and more fatigued from trying to meet the needs and expectation of others. Unfortunately, stress most often turns a wife and husband away from each other at the one time they need support from one another.

John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, advises couples to not to offer advice too quickly when one of them is suffering from stress. “The cardinal rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice. You have to let your partner know that you fully understand and empathize with the dilemma before you suggest a solution,” he says. In other words, listed to not just respond, but to actually understand your spouse and why he or she is upset or stressed.

Why the Holidays Prompt Divorce

The reason is that, for many, the holidays can “represent an opportunity to test things out one last time,” says Julie Brines, an associate sociology professor at the University of Washington. She explains that couples look forward to a key moment of reconciliation as their families come together and see Christmas as a time to give a marriage “one last shot.” But, when efforts don’t live up to expectations, a spouse may decide to prepare for divorce.

Many also see the coming New Year as a time for change and renewal…and that change may also include deciding to divorce your spouse and start fresh.

If feelings and consideration of divorce aren’t fleeting or temporary, reaching out to a divorce lawyer is your best bet. By January, if the marriage still is not working, it’s most likely time to move on. There’s no “perfect” time to file for divorce, so file when you feel ready—even if it happens to be right after the holidays. Divorce is a personal decision and the day you file doesn’t matter.

To learn how North Carolina law may apply to your unique circumstances, call one of the qualified attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith at (252) 634-9400 or visit
(Sources: Chicago Tribune; Manchester Evening News; For Your Marriage; The Independent; Huffington Post; TODAY Healthy Living Newsletter; and The Marriage and Family Clinic.)