Has The Pandemic Changed ‘Divorce January?’

by Elaine Roth
Originally Published: 
divorce January rates america

Oh, January. The month for diets, detoxes, and…divorce?

Or at least that’s what January used to be before COVID arrived and turned everything inside out and upside down. Now diets are out (or they should be), detoxes are especially hard (no one is separating me from my coffee when the world is falling apart), and couples are…weathering the storm together.

The month that used to be known in some circles as “divorce January” is shaping up to be something else.

“Divorce January” Isn’t Just About Having A Quiet Holiday Season

Before asking whether and how “Divorce January” has changed, it’s important to understand why “Divorce January” even exists. Are folks just acting on their New Year’s resolutions? Are they waiting for the holidays to wrap up before destabilizing their lives? Or, with tax season on the horizon and year-end-bonuses earned and acknowledged, is the idea of “Divorce January” grounded in something a lot more practical and financial?

The answer is likely a mix of all of the above.

“People don’t want to upset the apple cart over the holidays, and they want a peaceful Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s. And then, because they don’t want to spend another damned year with that spouse of theirs, as soon as the holidays are over they pull the plug and file,” Alton Abramowitz, past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said in an interview with Reuters.

Divorce Rates Are Down Over The Last Year And A Half

Brad Wilcox, the Director of the National Marriage Project, and a Professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, recently discussed “divorce January” in an interview with WGN-Radio.

The pandemic has not done to marriage what most experts expected, he said. Divorce rates are actually down over the last year and a half. He said, “When pandemic first hit…in March of 2020, [there was] a lot of speculation that we’d see a big spike in divorce…. But what we see is, overall, marriage got stronger during the pandemic. In the face of trials and tribulations, people turned to their spouse.”

While there’s a chance we’ll see a spike in divorce filings in January and the months following, he doesn’t believe “divorce January” will look similar to the way it has other years. Surveys conducted in 2020 found that more folks felt their marriage was important to them and they felt gratitude toward their marriage.

“I think the story coming out of all this is in general people are more likely to stick with their marriages,” Wilcox said. “Marriage is one of few sources of social solidarity and financial stability going in this country.”

In a way, the idea that marriages are growing stronger in the face of the pandemic is comforting. At least as far as anything in this pandemic can be comforting.

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