Associate sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini claims there is quantitative evidence of a seasonal, biannual pattern of filings for divorce - determined by analyzing filings in Washington state between 2001 and 2015. Statistics show that they consistently peaked in March and August, the periods following winter and summer holidays.
In order words, no one gets divorced over Christmas or wants to ruin the summer holiday for the kids.
But it's sociology, so they always want to be reductionist, and the paper instead goes over the top and claims that divorce filings may be driven by a "domestic ritual" calendar governing family behavior, despite the fact that they are a recent phenomenon. Then they throw in the word "taboo" and say some times of the year are inappropriate, rather than simply not wanting to ruin Christmas or vacation, which is actually rational and what separates them from ritualism.
More likely than taboo, they may think things will be different this holiday. Even that can't pass without using the phrase "symbolically charged" and continuing the quest for postmodernist prose.
It's common sense that holidays are also emotionally charged and stressful for many couples and can expose fissures in a marriage. The consistent pattern in filings, the researchers believe, reflects the disillusionment unhappy spouses feel when the holidays don't live up to expectations. They may decide to file for divorce in August, following the family vacation and before the kids start school. They excluded two of Washington's 39 counties, Lincoln and Wahkiakum. Those are among few nationwide that allow marriages to be ended by mail, without a court appearance. Since anyone in Washington can file for divorce in the two counties, the sociologists thought they would skew the results.
What explains the spike in March? It's plain old speculation, positing that couples rationally get their finances together and find an attorney. Or maybe it's longer days.
The authors say they wanted to show that the recession of 2008- 2016 has an effect on (money causes stress causes divorce) but humanities scholars who throw in words like taboo about Christmas were going to cargo cult a pattern out of the divorce filings for counties throughout Washington. They saw variations from month to month and was evident even after they claim they accounted for other seasonal factors such as unemployment and the housing market. The researchers reasoned that if the pattern was tied to family holidays, other court actions involving families -- such as guardianship rulings -- should show a similar pattern, while claims less related to family structure wouldn't. And they found exactly that: The timing of guardianship filings resembled that of divorce filings, but property claims, for example, did not.
Yet during the height of the recession, those weren't the months at all, they were different. They claim that was not statistically significant.
Does it apply to other states? Somewhat. Ohio, Minnesota, Florida and Arizona have similar divorce laws as Washington but differ in demographics and economic conditions, particularly during the recession. Florida and Arizona were among states hit hardest by the real estate collapse, and Ohio had higher than average employment rates, but the pattern persisted. People still don't want to get divorced over Christmas.