End of the Summer, Time for a Divorce?

Divorce lawyers say more couples split up at summer's end than after Christmas.

February 10, 2009, 10:21 AM

Aug. 28, 2007 — -- As summer draws to a close, it's time for the last few days of vacation, time for the kids to head back to school — and for many couples, time for a divorce.

Though no official statistics are available, divorce lawyers who spoke with ABC News said more people decide to split up at the end of the summer or after the Christmas holidays than during other times of the year.

"Every year, it's like clockwork," said Gaetano Ferro, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "You know the phone is going to start ringing like crazy that time of year."

There were more than 870,000 divorces in the United States last year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which does not track how many divorces are filed each month.

Divorce lawyers and law professors said that quarrelling couples often wait until the end of family summer vacations and until the kids are safely sent to school before splitting up.

"This is usually the deferral of a decision that's been made months earlier," said James Hennenhoefer, a family law attorney in Vista, Calif.

Summers can mean less stress on struggling marriages, when parents may take time off work and the kids may be away at summer camp. The summer, like Christmas, is also a time for family vacations that many would prefer not to disrupt.

"People don't want to initiate something when they're in the Hamptons or in Europe," said Robert Dobrish, a New York divorce lawyer.

William Hoge, a divorce lawyer in Louisville, Ky., said, "People save up all that anger. When they're exploding the first two weeks in January or September, it's a bonanza for divorce lawyers."

For wealthier families in which one spouse may spend time in a summer home while the other works, the summer can provide a needed respite — and opportunities for what lawyers delicately call "extracurricular activities."

But the end of August means a return to reality.

"People think the rules don't apply" in the sultry summer months, Hoge said, "but it's all over when school starts."

Summer also means that other key people are on vacation, notably— at least in New York City — therapists, said Dobrish. "People want to be able to discuss what's going on in their relationship," he said.

And the heavy August heat in some parts of the country doesn't help anyone's mood, attorneys said.

Not every lawyer who spoke with ABC News noticed the trend and some said there was less of a jump in divorces at the end of the summer than there used to be.

"I think people are smarter and don't want to wait out those periods," said Arthur Berman, a Chicago lawyer and the former chair of the Family Law section of the Illinois State Bar. "It's depressing to know what you're going to do afterwards."

But, most agreed that the schedule changes that come with the end of summer bring other changes to struggling marriages.

"I suspect that this is one of those periods where people reevaluate what they're doing," said Nancy Ver Steegh, a family law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn. "We all reflect on the summer ending or a new season starting."