This Might Be Why So Many Celebrities Are Getting Divorced Right Now

Is there really such a thing as divorce season?

What did summer 2023 have against love?

Earlier this week, actor Jodie Turner-Smith filed for divorce from Joshua Jackson after four years of marriage and the birth of a daughter in 2020 ― making them the latest celebrity couple to call it quits recently.

Other big marital breakups lately? Joe Jonas and Sophie TurnerJoe Manganiello and Sofia VergaraBritney Spears and Sam Asghari ― even in-office Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire.

Divorce attorneys are taking note. Lynda Hinkle, a family law attorney practicing in New Jersey, was most surprised by the news that Jeremy Allen White, the rising star of FX’s “The Bear,” and actor Addison Timlin were splitting.

“I’m sure the pressure of having your career exploding and a rigorous filming schedule makes any preexisting challenges much harder, but how sad that one part of his life was blossoming while another part was dying on the vine,” she told HuffPost.

Then again, she’s not that surprised; celebrities are generally pretty frequent divorcers because they can afford to, Hinkle said.

“Unlike a lot of couples that I see in middle America who are staying together because they can’t manage to maintain the lifestyle they want for themselves or their children without doing so, a lot of celebrities can comfortably walk away with only a moderate dip in their affluence,” she said.

But there’s more at play here, too. The uptick in celebrity summer divorces ― or early fall, as it is ― actually does reflect a real seasonal trend in matrimonial affairs: In 2016, researchers out of the University of Washington found that divorce filings consistently peaked in March and August, the periods following winter and summer holidays.

“Holidays and vacations can also be very stressful, especially if there is already discontentment in the marriage,” UW associate sociology professor Julie Brines told HuffPost of her study. “These vacation ‘pauses’ from routine can raise a couple’s expectations and provide people with time to reflect on how the marriage is going.”

Researchers at the University of Washington found that divorce filings consistently peaked in March and August, the periods following winter and summer holidays.
FREEMIXER VIA GETTY IMAGES/Researchers at the University of Washington found that divorce filings consistently peaked in March and August, the periods following winter and summer holidays.

That said, March is a way out from the holidays ― but Brines explained that’s likely because couples need time to prepare for divorce. You’ve got to get your finances in order, find the right attorney and then actually work up the courage to file.

Carla Schiff Donnelly, a divorce attorney in Pittsburgh, confirmed there’s usually a lag in filing after the initial decision is made.

“Clients may contact me in advance so that we have a game plan, but then they wait to request a divorce or separation until after the vacation is over,” she said.

Then there are the outliers who separate early in the summer so they aren’t stuck going on vacation with their soon-to-be ex. “I’ve seen some women schedule a girls’ trip to replace their vacation plans,” Schiff Donnelly said.

Another potential reason for all the breakups in Hollywood? Divorce may be contagious.

Research suggests that divorce is, in a sense, ‘contagious’ within a social network, so that’s a possible mechanism for why we see fairly well defined ‘peaks’ in divorce over time, although it doesn’t explain when those occur during the year,” Brines said.

Randall Kessler, an Atlanta-based divorce attorney who’s represented “Real Housewives” and Cardi B, among others, said he’s never surprised by celebrity divorces.

“Any relationship is vulnerable and celebrities much more so,” he said in an email. “The pressures they face, the fact that many around them often worship them and their celeb spouses may see them as regular people and not celebs, and the demands of always being ‘on’ all take their toll.”

As for whether there’s been an upturn in divorce filings lately, Kessler said it seems divorces have been on the rise since he started practicing 35 years ago.

“COVID at first caused a slowdown but that was brief and then the onslaught came once people realized they may be stuck, for a while with someone they wanted to be away from,” he wrote.

Actors Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness are among the celebrity couples who called it quits this summer.
STEFANIA D’ALESSANDRO VIA GETTY IMAGES/Actors Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness are among the celebrity couples who called it quits this summer.

Morghan Richardson, a partner and family law attorney at Tarter, Krinsky & Drogin LLP in Manhattan, said this last summer was one of the busiest for divorces she’s seen.

“In July, I actually became concerned that we wouldn’t be able to keep up with the volume,” she told HuffPost. “Fortunately, we have expanded to more than double the size of our matrimonial department! Yes, we really were that busy.”

Everyone has a celeb breakup they were a little disappointed to hear about. For Richardson, it was actors Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness, who separated after 27 years of marriage in September.

“Making a marriage last longer than a decade in Hollywood seems like a feat, and outwardly, they appeared so loyal to each other,” she said.

Richardson pointed out that Jackman and Furness are part of a larger divorce trend, known as “gray divorce.” Over the last few decades, there’s been an uptick in couples calling it quits in middle age or older, often after decades of marriage.

Pew Research data from 2017 found that the rate of divorce after age 50 nearly doubled from 1990 to 2015. Generally, it’s women who want out. According to research by AARP, women initiate 66% of reported cases of gray divorces, while only 39% of men and 15% of couples jointly decide to end their marriage.

What’s driving the trend? Many people are realizing they don’t want to spend the remainder of their lives burdened with an imperfect relationship, according to Hinkle.

“The fact is, there was a time when we felt a lot of pressure in our culture to stay together, and the pressure is shifting to the idea that we have to put ourselves first when relationships are no longer serving us,” she said.

A seasoned pro, Hinkle looks at the trend with neutrality. There are good and bad sides to that approach, just as with the approach of staying together even through unhappy or tumultuous times.

“When you’re a divorce attorney, you just roll with it,” she said.

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