New Study Points to Cyclical Divorce

A sociology professor and doctoral candidate at the University of Washington recently released a study which shows that divorce filings peak each year during the months of March and August. The two researchers recently presented their findings at an annual meeting for the American Sociological Association in nearby Seattle.

According to a University of Washington article on the study, the researchers analyzed divorce filings in the state of Washington from 2001 to 2015 in an attempt “to investigate the effects of the recession, such as rising unemployment rates and declining house values, on marital stability.” However, what originally started as an analysis of potential effects of the recent recession on families ended up highlighting seasonal trends in divorce fillings. Specifically, the study found that divorce filings peaked in March and August as outlined in the chart below:

Julie Brines, the associate sociology professor that worked on the study, has offered some insights as to why divorces might peak each year during March and August. Brines has posited that winter and summer holidays are “sacred times for families… when filing for divorce is considered inappropriate, even taboo.” Thus, as a result, she believes that many couples either try to make things work during these holidays or deliberately hold on filing for divorce until the months following, hence the spikes in March and August.

The two researches are now looking into data in other states with similar divorce laws to Washington, but with different socioeconomic conditions, in order to determine whether the trend holds true across the nation. Notably, their model might not be too enlightening in North Carolina considering North Carolina requires couples to separate from one another for one year prior to filing for divorce. Given this mandatory period of separation before divorce can be sought in North Carolina, our state’s filing may not be as cyclical as those found in Washington. However, it is possible trends could be measured in North Carolina based on the date parties’ separate rather than the date they actually file for divorce.

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