Managing the January Divorce Spike
- January 27
- by Simon Rolfe
Editor's note: This article was written by Simon Rolfe, owner of At Your Service.The opinions expressed here belong to Simon Rolfe.
If you have been in the process serving industry for some time, you may have encountered the traditional increase in the number of divorce case files your office handles in January.
While the jury remains split on the most popular filing date, some believe it is the first Monday after the kids return to school that sees the most filings. This day is often referred to as D-Day or Divorce Day; while others state that D-Day takes place at the start of the first full working week after the holidays. At our office, January 12-16 seems to be the magic week for serves.
Russell I. Marnell, the principal lawyer with the Marnell Law Group (Melville, NY), stated in a Readers Digest piece that the holidays lead to an increase in January divorces for a combination of reasons. He said, “Stress levels during the holidays are exacerbated by the stress of the marriage and they don’t want to deal with both of these situations. A couple that is struggling to maintain a marriage may often be prompted to consider divorce as part of one or both of the partners’ self-evaluation that comes with the new year. Many people make New Year’s resolutions to put their personal lives in order, even if that includes ending an unhealthy marriage.”
Keep in mind, many couples and/or the individual parties involved in a current marriage likely already decided to utilize divorce as a solution to a marriage they are no longer interested in ahead of January and a new year. With that in mind, in the month or two leading up to January, couples and or the individual parties in a marriage potentially already sought out legal counsel (if they decided to not represent themselves) or perhaps spent this time learning about the divorce process and how to file the documents on their own if they elected to represent themselves.
Managing Client Expectations
With the possible increase in the number of cases at this time of year, there are a few things you can do to ensure both a smooth workflow and successful outcome.
Armed with the understanding that the first conversation often sets the tone for future conversations and the entire client relationship, take the time to explain in detail how the service of divorce documents are typically handled by your office. Be careful to never lose sight of the fact that divorce cases are often the most emotionally charged files we encounter in our field.
Emotionally charged individuals are best addressed by the lowering of your voice and softening of your tone. Be sure to ask “how may I best help?” Spending a little more time listening during your initial intake interview while asking them key questions about their situation will keep the process moving forward smoothly for all.
Suggest that the client provide you with both work and home addresses and any other information you may require to ensure you are able to handle their requirements quickly and accurately.
Offer to pick up files from their place of employment if they are not yet using a lawyer and inform them that a payment in cash for your services upfront is typical. Correspondence with your client in divorce situations is often best achieved using work email addresses so be sure to grab several of their business cards, one for your office files and one to enter into your phone or to store in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software.
Safety Tips for Serving Divorce Papers
Because of the intense emotions that are an inevitable part of a divorce, serving divorce papers comes with its own set of challenges for process servers. Keep these tips in mind when you find yourself on the doorstep of a troubled spouse.
Everyone has experienced hardship in their own way and this may be a particularly hard moment for the person that answers the door. As you address them, keep your own experiences in mind in order to empathize with them. As much as possible, try to understand their perspective and what they may be feeling. If they complain, listen and respond encouragingly to show you hear them. If they ask questions, answer them truthfully and clearly.
However, individuals won’t always respond to empathy. They’ll come to the door revved up and ready to release their anger on whoever they can. In these situations, it’s important not to escalate the situation. Never resort to yelling yourself. Maintain a calm demeanor. Part of this may be remembering that their anger isn’t personal or even directed towards you. As counterintuitive as it feels, drop defensiveness and explain yourself clearly and calmly.
In the worst-case scenario, you may be stuck serving a violent individual. If the door opens revealing any kind of weapon, whether it’s a baseball bat or a gun, don’t hesitate to walk (or even run) away and call the police. Don’t try to reason with the barrel of a gun. Remember that your personal safety comes before any serve.
When you are the busiest, it is NOT the time to implement untested, unproven, or new ways to manage your case files. Develop and test new workflow methods or strategies when your office is not as busy. Tune and test, then refine and repeat until you have 'your' formula just right!
Consider utilizing a combination of productivity packages to organize your workload in the most effective way, affordable tools exist to help you get the most out of your day by automating repetitive tasks. Consider using GPS Routing Apps and investing in a suitable CRM solution like ServeManager, starting at just $39.00 a month. It delivers a host of desirable features engineered specifically to save you time. Regardless of the size of your firm and/or the number of staff members you have at your disposal if you take the time to properly outfit your office with the right mix of tools you will be able to effectively handle increased caseloads at any time of year including the spike in January.
And while there are numerous studies that illustrate that January has the highest number of divorce filings, the sad reality is that every month is 'divorce month' for someone and the work for process servers never truly stops.
About the Author
Simon Rolfe is the Owner and Operations Manager of At Your Service, a full-service process serving and court filing firm located in Ottawa, ON. Canada. Should you require service of process in Ontario, Canada he is reachable toll-free at 1-855-284-6333 or via email at [email protected]