2 Tips On How To Survive 'Divorce Month'

Research reveals that January is the month that sees the most divorces out of any. Here's why, and what to do if you're feeling its effects.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | February 12, 2024

Many couples contemplating divorce, particularly those with kids, choose to delay the proceedings until sometime after Christmas—often in the month of January—earning it the rather sinister "divorce-month" tag in legal circles. It also doesn't hurt that January is when courts open after the holidays.

Practicality aside, a January divorce sometimes makes sense from an intuitive standpoint. Around New Year's Day, the question on many people's minds is: "How can I make myself feel less miserable next year?"

With some persistent marital difficulties, divorce is the right path for both parties, and the inherent negative connotation built into the term "divorce month" can sometimes deter couples who need to split up. Nobody likes to become a cliché or a statistic, especially when it is socially regarded as a "failure."

Here is why the start of the new year could be the start of a better situation for you, regardless of whether you remain married or not.

Creating A Pros-And-Cons List About Your Marriage Is Important

Some may argue that if it comes to making a case for why you need to stay in a marriage, it is time to get out of it. That isn't necessarily true.

Marriage is, in a very real sense, work. We rely on our spouses to keep the home running like a well-oiled machine, whether that involves family planning, securing our children's futures or simply buying the groceries and keeping our financial health in check.

A 2022 study published in Current Psychology explored how people make significant life choices by examining the cognitive processes involved. Participants were asked to recall and describe their decision-making processes in sentimental (e.g., relationships) and work-related areas. The study differentiates between intuitive and rational decision-making.

The results? People tend to rely more on intuition and emotions when making sentimental decisions, like choosing a life partner or ending a marriage. In contrast, work-related decisions involve more analytical reasoning, requiring careful evaluation of pros and cons. Interestingly, participants recalled decisions in the work area as more pleasant than sentimental decisions, possibly due to the higher risk and less reversible outcomes associated with work choices.

A conscious assessment (through a pros and cons list, for example) is warranted when making an important decision like filing for divorce. Our intuitions can frequently be misguided by cognitive biases. That brings us to:

Is January The Time To Make A Conscious Assessment Of Your Marriage?

January is a month that can give you context about your marriage. But it is also a month that can instill false hope. Recognizing this is the key to making better January-decisions related to divorce.

For example, spending the holiday season with a spouse we are no longer compatible with may feel like "better times" in the moment. The focus isn't on your incompatibility, but on making the festive season a happy time for the household. This can leave us feeling a sense of hope for the future and a sense of regret in ending the relationship, which in combination, can lead us to delay the idea of divorce. There are two problems with this:

  1. We may fall victim to "recency bias." Recency bias is when we tend to overemphasize the importance of recent events when making decisions. In the context of a marriage, we may focus more on recent experiences with our spouse, such as a pleasant holiday season, and overlook the long-term incompatibility issues that have persisted in the relationship.
  2. The marital issues that we bottle up may explode into something "unsaveable." Bottling up our true feelings is a recipe for disaster. And, if successful co-parenting or remaining friendly with your spouse is important to you, it is best to terminate a marriage on mutually agreed terms, rather than as a result of infidelity, manipulation or abuse.

If we recognize these flawed ways of thinking and commit to a more methodical approach to the question of whether to split up, January can be a fresh start to a "new you."

Following the rollercoaster of emotions that the holiday season tends to be, January can allow couples to step back from the holiday festivities and consider their relationship more objectively. The start of the new year offers an opportunity for a fresh perspective and a methodical approach to making decisions about the future of marriage.

By avoiding the pitfalls of false optimism and recognizing cognitive biases, you can inch your way toward positive change, whether that involves strengthening the marital bond or going through with filing for divorce, albeit through a mutually agreeable manner.


A perfectly-timed divorce is near impossible. But you can take steps to ensure you have made a well-thought-out decision that takes into consideration your future, your partner's future and the well-being of your children. January, though it has earned a bad reputation, can be an excellent time to work on this decision, provided you understand the cognitive biases that may be at play.

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