Study reveals when couples in Idaho are most likely to divorce

Research shows divorce filings peak in August and March. Spouses who intend to file during either month should know how to prepare for the divorce process.

For many people who are contemplating ending their marriages, choosing the right time to initiate the divorce proceedings can be difficult. Often, prior commitments such as work and travel may dictate when a person has the time and focus to begin the divorce process. However, new research suggests that couples in Idaho may be especially likely to separate during two particular seasons when divorce filings tend to peak.

Divorce timing issues

The study from the University of Washington, which was presented at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting in August 2016, examined 14 years of divorce filing data. The researchers found that each year, divorce rates drop during fall and the winter holidays, rise to a peak in March and jump again in August. The researchers also determined that this pattern held even when they controlled for other factors that vary seasonally, such as unemployment.

The researchers have suggested a few explanations for their findings. Some people may enter the holiday season with high expectations or hopes of mending their marital relationships, only to end up disappointed. Others may intentionally delay divorcing because doing so during the holidays may seem culturally unacceptable. For parents, similar motivations might come into play during the summer months, when families have the opportunity to spend more time together.

The researchers' initial findings are only based on data from the state of Washington. However, they have started examining divorce filings in four other states and found that the pattern is apparent in those states as well. This suggests that similar timing concerns may affect many spouses here in Idaho.

Preparing for divorce

The researchers note that the gap between the holidays and the spike in divorces each March may occur because spouses need several months to get ready for the separation. In contrast, spouses who file for divorce in August may feel rushed to complete the process before the new school year begins. Regardless of the season, though, there are several steps that spouses should take to prepare themselves for divorce, including the following:

· Gathering financial documentation. Collecting copies of tax returns, property appraisals and account statements can help a person document the value of all marital property that must be divided during the divorce.

· Inventorying separate property. Spouses should take stock of assets that they owned prior to the marriage, received as gifts or inherited. These assets are not considered part of the marital estate and are not subject to division.

· Setting aside money for legal expenses and life after divorce. Spouses may need to consider opening separate accounts to ensure that they maintain access to and control over these funds.

Parents may also need to begin considering potential child custody arrangements, taking into account logistical issues such as work schedules and the need for relocation.

In addition, spouses should take time to meet with an attorney and decide whether securing legal representation is necessary. While handling the divorce process alone may be feasible in simple cases, it may lead to significant losses or complications for people with children, complex assets or high-conflict relationships. In these cases, partnering with an attorney early on may help a spouse identify realistic objectives and approach the divorce more strategically.