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 Valentineā€™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 yearsā€™ 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 Valentineā€™s Day. Filings drop in April and donā€™t spike again until Augustā€”after July, the most popular month for vacations.

ā€œFamily life is governed by a ā€˜social clockā€™ that mandates the observations of birthdays, holidays and other special transitions,ā€ Brines and Serafini write in the study, presented this weekend at the annual conference of the American Sociological Association. Their study provides ā€œthe first systematic, quantitative evidence of a pronounced and durable ā€˜seasonalā€™ pattern in the timing of filings for divorce.ā€

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

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


Why March instead of late January, though? Well, basically, thatā€™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 canā€™t deal with their partners for another year and actually theyā€™d really prefer to take that summer vacation alone, thanks.