Do I Wait to File for Divorce in the New Year?

By Michael DiFalco

Sometimes filing for divorce is the best step forward in a broken marriage. Your divorce attorney or therapist might even refer to it as the solution by dissolution. If you and your spouse cannot continue together, divorce allows both of you to move forward with your lives rather than trying to fix the unfixable.

But deciding to divorce does not end your marriage. You need to file for divorce and wind up all the financial and legal issues with your spouse before a court dissolves your marriage. Deciding when to file for divorce can have emotional, financial, and legal effects.

The Timing of Your Divorce Filing

You will need to consider several factors while planning the timing of your divorce. A primary factor is your spouse’s awareness of your situation.

If you want a divorce because of financial misconduct by your spouse, you should file quickly rather than waiting for the new year. A quick filing allows your divorce attorney to gather financial documents before your spouse can hide or move assets.

Similarly, if your divorce strategy includes surprising your spouse, you should consider filing sooner rather than later. Secrets tend to leak when you hold them too long. Moving quickly to file and serve the divorce petition can preserve the element of surprise.

Outside of these situations, you may have several reasons to wait for the new year rather than trying to file quickly. Some of the main reasons to slow the process of filing for divorce include the following:

Time to Negotiate Divorce Terms

If your spouse knows about and agrees with the divorce filing, the timing of the divorce might not matter. But if your spouse does not know about your plans, they might become hostile after you file the divorce petition.

Rushing the divorce process might deprive you and your spouse of the opportunity to work out the terms of your divorce. By slowing down the filing process, each of you can seek legal advice and, through your attorneys, try to work out a settlement or a framework for collaborating on the terms of your divorce.

Holiday Court Calendars

You might think filing before the new year will kickstart your divorce and get it finished faster. This might not necessarily happen. Courts close for state and federal holidays and judges do not work all the time. The judge assigned to your case might take some time off over the holidays, adding to the number of days your case sits.

Moreover, banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, stock brokers, and other financial institutions close over the holidays. Many of the documents you need for your divorce might get delayed. Thus, waiting until after New Year’s Day might have little to no effect on how long your case takes. 

Effects on Your Family

Your children have an idealized concept of the holidays. Filing for divorce right before the new year might upset them. Worse yet, they might forever associate the holidays with their parents’ divorce.

Similarly, your family will probably want to stick to their holiday routine. By waiting, you can avoid an awkward holiday visit with your soon-to-be ex-in-laws.

Costs of Filing

In 2022, the average holiday spending per adult American was $832. The filing and legal fees associated with a divorce could force you to spend less on the holidays or incur some debt to maintain your spending. Waiting until the new year can allow you to pay for the divorce petition without impacting the amount you spend on the holidays.

Additionally, rushing to file will likely not bring any financial benefits. Your divorce will probably not get completed by the end of the year if you file in the fall. As a result, you will be married for tax purposes whether you file before the end of the year or wait.

Filing Before the New Year

These broad considerations do not apply uniformly to every person’s situation. Speak to a lawyer from Aiello & DiFalco, a family law firm in Garden City, NY, to learn whether other factors might affect when you should file for divorce.

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.