Divorce filings peak at two times of the year, according to researchers: March and August. Which you might recognize as the end of a string of winter holidays culminating in Valentine’s Day, and also the calendrical doldrums after the heady vacation-oriented height of summer.


Bloomberg Businessweek reports on a new study out of the University of Washington, drawing on 14 years’ worth of numbers from 37 counties in Washington State and presented recently at the American Sociological Association conference:

Sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini found divorce filings seem to follow the annual schedule of family holidays: lowest in November and December, then peaking in March after the passage of winter holidays and Valentine’s Day. Filings drop in April and don’t spike again until August—after July, the most popular month for vacations.

“Family life is governed by a ‘social clock’ that mandates the observations of birthdays, holidays and other special transitions,” Brines and Serafini write in the study, presented this weekend at the annual conference of the American Sociological Association. Their study provides “the first systematic, quantitative evidence of a pronounced and durable ‘seasonal’ pattern in the timing of filings for divorce.”

“Parents of dependent children were more likely to follow the seasonal trend, but couples without kids also saw divorce filings peak in March and August,” the piece notes.

Correlation is, of course, not causation. But who wants to be the guy filing for divorce when the Christmas tree isn’t even out of the house, or the woman serving papers when everybody’d rather be finding where they stuck the sunscreen a year ago? (Though there’s a decent argument to be made that the best time to separate is when you’ve already got a plane ticket and permission for a week off work.)


Why March instead of late January, though? Well, basically, that’s how long it takes for the rosy glow of the run-up to the holidays to wear off and for people to realize that, nope, they still can’t deal with their partners for another year and actually they’d really prefer to take that summer vacation alone, thanks.