January is the most popular month of the year for couples to file for divorce. Many people who are considering splitting up wait until after the holidays to file, so that their family Christmas and New Year celebrations are not ruined by the looming shadow of divorce.

While getting divorced in January may feel like the perfect New Year’s resolution, there are some pitfalls to waiting until after the holidays to file. If you are planning to divorce in the New Year, make sure you are aware of these potential problems and work out solutions to avoid them.

Family Stress

The number one reason why divorcing couples stay together until January is to give their children and families one last happy holiday season together. For many couples, however, the reality is far from A Miracle on 34th Street, and the bickering and arguing of a broken marriage make for poor stocking stuffers.

Some couples hope that the joy of the holiday season will bring them back together as a family. But even Jimmy Stewart finding Zuzu’s petals is no match for a couple that has already grown emotionally and spiritually apart.

When a relationship is volatile and marked by shouting matches or forms of verbal or physical abuse, it is often better for everyone involved if the couple splits immediately. Spending a Thanksgiving dinner pretending to be happily married is not worth another six weeks of misery.

Finances and Taxes

If you are planning to divorce in January, you need to speak with an experienced financial and tax advisor first.

Your filing status for your tax return depends on the status of your relationship as of December 31st of the previous year. In Washington the very minimum to obtain a final divorce decree is 90 days and almost all divorces take longer. If you have a divorce decree by December 31st, you must file as an unmarried person—beneficial if you and your spouse each have significant take-home pay. Otherwise, couples who do not have a final decree can choose to file as married filing jointly, married filing separately, or under certain circumstances may file as head of household. Depending on a person’s financial state and whether or not that person will owe taxes, the timing of filing for divorce may affect how much the person owes to Uncle Sam. Either way, it is important to speak with a tax advisor about your options before making a decision.

In addition to tax concerns, many people receive year-end bonuses or holiday bonuses in November and December. If a person receives this bonus while he or she is still living in the same house as the other spouse, that bonus is considered community property and will be split between the spouses. However, it could be treated as separate if the couple no longer lives together and recognizes that the marriage is broken. If this bonus is substantial, it may be beneficial to the receiving spouse to begin the divorce before receiving the year-end bonus.

Beat the Rush

Preparing to file for divorce requires patience and due diligence. While the idea of making a major life change for the New Year is enticing, many people fail to prepare for their divorce and rush to the courthouse as soon as their children are back in school.

It is important to plan ahead before you file for divorce. Gather copies of financial information, like bank account statements and tax returns, and figure out where you (or your partner) will be living while the divorce is pending. Finances may be tight after the holidays, and many people who file in January find out that they simply cannot afford to get divorced as quickly as they wanted. Divorces which begin in January may take longer to complete than divorces which begin in October or November because of overloaded court calendars.

Deciding to divorce is a major life change that cannot be taken lightly. If you are considering getting a divorce, schedule an appointment with the experienced divorce attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law. We can help you make a plan for your future, and will work with you and your former spouse to develop a divorce settlement which fits your needs.

For help with your situation, contact us today by calling 360-926-9112.