Alcohol, Infidelity and Relatives: Recipe for Divorce

Friday, barely 10 days after making a New Year's resolution, Donna is going to see her therapist about divorcing her husband of six years.

"Emotions run high around the holidays," said the 56-year-old California businesswoman who did not want her full name used because she hasn't yet broken the news to her husband.

"You really look at yourself in the mirror and dig deep, because Christmas is a time that is supposed to be so personal and family-oriented — the best time in a relationship," she said.

New Canaan, Conn., divorce lawyer Gaetano Ferro says the time between December and Valentine's Day is high season for breakups. Marital misery is often magnified during the holidays and many unhappy spouses want a clean slate in the new year.

"People in bad marriages find that the holidays accentuate the miserableness of their relations, and it causes them to run off to the divorce lawyer," said Ferro.

Often couples initiate consultations with their lawyers in the fall, but hold off because it's "bad form" to serve a spouse with divorce papers on the eve of the holidays, Ferro said.

The spike is not just an American phenomenon. In Britain, divorce lawyers call the Monday after New Year's "D-Day."

"Couples are very reluctant to consider the possibility of divorce in the lead-up to Christmas," British lawyer James Stewart told the Washington Post this week. "It's a terribly important time of year here. No one wants to give their husband or wife a proverbial bloody nose during the holidays."

The second-busiest divorce season is in September, according to Ferro, who just finished a term as president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

"The family goes away on summer vacation, and they're supposed to have a good time," said Ferro. "The kids go back to school and off to college, and Mom and Dad face each other with miserable faces without the kids to deflect it."

The most common reasons cited for divorce are infidelity, abuse, boredom and lack of sex, according to lawyers.

Donna said the love had gone out of her marriage, and her husband felt "more like a friend" than a lover. She had a "heart to heart" talk with her 22-year-old daughter from a first marriage over Thanksgiving: "I was starting to get serious about filing for divorce."

But Donna wanted to get through the holidays and see her husband's teenage daughter back to school before facing him.

Her unhappiness overshadowed everything at Christmas. For their 12-person dinner, she seated herself next to her daughter's father, not her husband.

"I made sure I was as far away from him as possible," she said.

"The gift giving was completely different this year knowing divorce was imminent," she said. "The gifts were less personal. I gave clothes instead of anything with a hint of romance. I did it on purpose."

"I didn't want to give my husband or anybody on his side of the family any hope," Donna said. "I completely ignored him. I knew that right after New Year's I was going to have a fresh start."

For matrimonial lawyers, January and early February are like the tax season for accountants, according to New York lawyer Sue Moss, who estimates 20 percent of her business comes at the start of the year.

"It seems everyone's New Year's resolution is to lose weight and lose the husband, and not in that order," Moss told the New York Post.

Those who file for divorce also find tax advantages to sticking it out until the end of the fiscal year.

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