'Til March Do Us Part: March and August are the Most Popular Months for Divorce Filings

The calendar has a noticeable impact on many people's marriages. Research shows that couples are more likely to file for divorce in March and August when the “culturally sacred” winter and summer seasons have passed.

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Summer and the holiday season may put a strain on your marriage. According to research and anecdotal reports from lawyers, divorce rates follow a biannual pattern, spiking in August and March.

An analysis by University of Washington sociologists presented in 2016 revealed that the chances of a couple filing for divorce rose considerably during those two months. One possible explanation researchers gave for the trend is the raised expectations, and inevitable disappointment, that comes with the winter and summer holidays.

“[The holidays] represent periods in the year when there’s the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life,” researcher and associate sociology professor Julie Brines said in a press release. “It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense.”

Brines also points out that these seasons represent “culturally sacred times,” so filing for divorce in the middle of summer vacation or before a trip to see the in-laws might be seen as inappropriate. In same cases, the forced togetherness that comes from trips and family visits may be what sends an already precarious marriage over the edge. If kids are involved, parents may feel pressured to stick it out until school is back in session. Though the study was limited to couples in Washington state, researchers said they found comparable patterns in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona where divorce laws are similar but demographics and economic conditions diverge.

Data based on general break-ups rather than divorces specifically also suggests that spring is a rough time for love. When data visualization expert David McCandless searched 10,000 Facebook statuses for the phrases “break up” and “broken up” around 2010, March was one of the months that came up the most. The second peak he saw also occurred around the winter holidays, but Facebook users tended to get their splits out of the way two weeks ahead of Christmas rather than riding the relationship out until the new year. Fewer presents to buy that way.

A version of this story ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2024.