To listen to some radio advertisements, getting a divorce can be just as much a New Year’s resolution as joining a gym, giving up sweets or any other goal for 2015. While it’s true that many people pondering a divorce towards the end of the year will wait until after the holidays to begin proceedings, the reality is that one specific time of year is not necessarily a better time to get a divorce than any other.
There are a few things that contribute to the mindset that after the New Year is the time to start. One is the misconception that by starting in January, your divorce will not take up the majority of the year. With collaborative divorce and mediation, it’s certainly possible to reach a settlement and finalize an agreement in court in six months. But it requires commitment from all parties to put in the work to get all the paperwork in order and be available to meet and reasonably negotiate. While it’s not impossible to come to a settlement within six months, it’s not guaranteed (a divorce via litigation can take up to 18 months).
What has perpetuated the thought that the New Year is the best time to begin divorce proceedings may have more to do with the availability of financial information. By January 31, people should have received financial statements from their employers, investment companies, and other financial institutions for tax purposes. Having these documents readily on hand can speed up divorce proceedings greatly. Starting a divorce proceeding later in the year, say June, does involve locating these documents again, which can be problematic for some, and updating them, which can be time consuming.
Starting in the beginning of the year provides a logical starting point for financial documents—the end of the previous year. And that’s something couples can usually agree on if the proceedings start at the beginning of the year. If things start in June, it might not be so clear-cut. One party might want the end point to be end of the previous year. The other spouse might want the end point to be as close to the current date as possible (e.g. a proceeding beginning in June wanting the end point to be the end of the first quarter).
On the other hand, there are some other real factors that might make the beginning of the year less than ideal. For example, if you have children, starting a divorce proceeding during the school year can be very disruptive. While there may be no better time of year for children of divorce, the timing of the proceedings should be considered.
For example, will the children be moving and switching schools as a result of their parents’ split? If so, then perhaps it’s best to start things or time the conclusion after the school year.
Another thing to consider before beginning divorce proceedings is how much time you can put into it. That may sound odd, but getting a divorce takes work on your part and your spouse. The level of effort the two of you put into getting paperwork together and working on resolving issues, the sooner your divorce can reach a conclusion.
In that regard, getting a divorce can be a lot like other New Year’s resolutions. You can join a gym at the beginning of the year. If you only go once a week, it could take you quite some time to reach your target weight. It’s the same with a divorce. If you don’t do the needed work, the chances are your New Year’s resolution to end your marriage will be your resolution for the next year as well.