NAPLES, Fla. - January is the beginning of a new year. For many who have been considering divorce, January is often when they finally take the first step. Timing the divorce can be one of the most critical, daunting and petrifying decisions to make. Because there are historically more new divorce filings in January than any other month, divorce practitioners have long considered it as “divorce month.”

Here are some reasons why:

1. People want one more holiday season together as a family. They don’t want to disrupt holiday plans or impact other family member’s enjoyment, especially if there are children involved. Children are home from school, family is coming into town and there are the annual holiday parties to attend — all reasons that some postpone filing.

2. Starting a new parenting plan is easier after the holidays when people get back into a regular routine, if you have children.

3. Nobody wants to be the “bad guy” and serve a spouse with divorce papers right before the holidays. They fear their spouse will say how awful it was that their holiday gifts contained a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and a Summons. (Although I have served a husband on Christmas Eve at the airport as he was coming home to be with the family, so it can happen).

4. Hoping for a change in your spouse’s behavior can be another reason people wait. If one is in an abusive relationship, or married to a narcissist, that person may be hoping that the holiday spirit will cure what ails the person and make things better. After suffering through yet another ruined holiday season, they are then finally ready to move forward with the divorce.

5. Many people get a year-end bonus or shareholder distribution and use it to hire a divorce attorney.

6. Tax planning is another reason people wait until the first of the year. Your tax filing status is determined by your marital status as of Dec. 31 of a given year. So some people want to take advantage of the marriage exemptions one last time.

7. Finally, January is a time for resolutions. Traditionally, the beginning of a new year gives people an opportunity to look at areas in their lives where they want improvement. What better way to improve your life than making the decision to finally break free from that dysfunction and disempowering relationship.

Fifty percent of all first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce and the rate is even higher for second and third marriages. Yet, as common as divorce is in our society, we tend to view someone who ends an unhappy marriage as a failure, and that person often receives little emotional support, loses friendships and feels stigmatized. But should staying in a long-term loveless, unfulfilling marriage be considered a success? Divorce can be an empowering act for someone who is in a dysfunctional marriage — an act that can open the door to new opportunities, greater happiness and freedom.

Rebecca Zung, a family law attorney, is a founding partner of the Law Office of Zung Clough, PLLC in Naples. As a renowned divorce authority, she helps clients transform and rebuild their lives. Her book, “Breaking Free: A Step-by-Step Divorce Guide to Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Freedom,” is available on amazon.com. Contact Zung at ZungFamilyLaw.com or rzung@zungfamilylaw.com.