Why Do Divorce Rates Peak in August?

The month of August derives its name from the Latin verb augere, which means “to increase.” So it seems like more than just a coincidence that researchers have found out that divorce rates in August do actually increase. But this measurable trend is not just based on an ancient language – it is based on the psychology of marriage, the emotions of expectation and disappointment, and how parents schedule divorces for the well-being of their children.

Seasons Change and So Do Marital Circumstances

Social scientists identified some modern social pressures and events that can cause marital discord to flare up in the eighth month of the year. Knowing what these are may help you anticipate trouble ahead, and seek help from professionals such as marriage counselors and therapists. Or you may realize that as the seasons change from summer to autumn, you may also desire a divorce change to help you turn over a new leaf and free yourself from an unhappy marriage.

Summer’s End Spells the End to Many Marriages

A 14-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington found that divorce filings consistently spike in the month of August. Many couples wait until after summertime is winds down because it is the time when most families go on vacation. Instead of disrupting plans involving kids, they postpone divorce until after the vacation – but also file early enough to avoid it happening in the midst of year-end holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. They also don’t want to announce a divorce just as children are focused on the fall school semester. All of those factors create a perfect storm for divorces to occur and be announced to friends and family in August.

Falling Short of Emotional Expectations

Another major factor is that summertime is traditionally a fun and happy season, especially when couples go on vacation to escape from the daily drudgery of work. But those with marital difficulties often have optimistic expectations that going away together for some fun and relaxation will help solve the problems they’re experiencing and get them out of their relationship rut.

Most serious marital problems cannot be fixed overnight – even if you’re in a tropical paradise. The result can be vacation disappointment, and a stark realization that the issues couples are dealing with are deep-rooted. That can bring problems to a head – and cause disillusionment that points the way toward divorce. The same outcome applies to couples who have finally sent their kids off to college. They become empty nesters, without the children there to serve as a buffer between the spouses. If there is underlying friction, it becomes accentuated and can be magnified – making marital matters worse.

Financial Stressors

There is a saying that “no vacation goes unpunished.” That’s because returning to the daily grind can be a big letdown. Then bills for the credit cards you used to pay for the vacation start piling up, raising the financial pressure. Financial challenges are a leading cause of divorce, and many couples fight over money issues. In fact, research that studied more than 4,000 couples concluded that financial disagreements may be the number one predictor of an upcoming divorce. So that’s another reason why August coincides with a surge in divorce filings – just as vacation bills come due.

Protect Yourself with a Prenup or Even a Post-Nuptial Agreement

Time Magazine reported that nearly 40 percent of marriages end in divorce, yet only about 15 percent of married couples prepare for that by signing a prenup. A prenuptial agreement can help make divorce more equitable, less stressful, and less costly regarding legal expenses that add up when couples fight over their assets in court. So it’s advisable that before marrying, you consider a prenup.

If you’re already married, you cannot create a prenup – but a qualified attorney can still draw up what is called a postnup. That agreement serves the same basic purpose as a prenup, but is signed after you are married. Think about it. If you invest so much time and energy in planning a short vacation, it only makes sense that you should similarly invest some planning in anticipation of a divorce, to help ensure a smoother outcome if you do one day wind up divorcing.


Karen Rosenthal

Karen B. Rosenthal is a partner and co-founder at matrimonial litigation firm Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield LLP, where she brings 35 years of matrimonial law experience to bear in matters involving high-net-worth equitable distribution, contentious custody battles, and other high-stakes disputes. Certified as an Attorney for the Child and a frequent speaker on topics related to children going through high-conflict divorce, she has been recognized as a leading New York lawyer by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Crain's New York Business magazine, and New York magazine.

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