Los Angeles Daily Breeze article featuring LegalMatch
Be my ex-Valentine

Some may feel a post-holiday letdown -- a feeling that their spouse just didn't show their appreciation like the couples in television commercials.
By Denise Nix
Staff Writer

The chocolate is eaten. The candles have burned out. The lingerie is back in the drawer.

For some people, Valentine's Day was romantically satisfying, living up to every commercially driven expectation.

But others may be suffering from a common, post-holiday letdown -- a feeling that their spouse just didn't show their appreciation or love with flowers, cards or a night of passion like the couples in television commercials.

Ken LaMance of the online lawyer referral service LegalMatch.com calls this the "Valentine Effect," prompting an abnormal rise in divorce cases around Feb. 14.

"Over the last four years, we have seen an average increase of 31 percent (compared with all other weeks) in divorce, annulments and prenuptial cases in the week prior to and directly after Valentine's Day," LaMance said.

"The added stress of a holiday where you are all but required to express your love with chocolates, flowers and even jewels, especially so soon after the holidays, can make people anxious and questioning," LaMance said.

Dan Couvrette, publisher of Toronto-based Divorce Magazine, said the magazine's Web site gets an increase in users right after Valentine's Day -- with online traffic rising an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent more than in other months.

"Whatever they have as an expectation, if that's not met, then that just gives them one more reason to think that this may be the end," Couvrette surmised.

There is no hard evidence, however, supporting this alleged phenomenon. Last year in February, 146 divorce cases were filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court's Southwest District, which covers most of the South Bay. This was about the same as most other months.

Many family law attorneys say they don't notice a spike in business related to Valentine's Day. But the attorneys and family counselors find that there is a definite increase in breakups after New Year's, and they have noticed other trends throughout the year.

"Christmas creates a lot of pressure to have a good time," said Irvine family law attorney Jeffrey Lalloway. "These are pressure situations, and it's rare that people come through these pressure times stronger."

Lalloway and others in the divorce business say people don't decide to divorce quickly and will often contemplate what to do about their relationship for months.

Brentwood attorney and mediator Fern Topas Salka said there are few divorce filings in December because most people will try to wait out the holidays. Many, though, will find themselves needing to make a change for the new year.

Dana Bassett, a 34-year-old advertising executive from Los Angeles, said she started thinking about divorcing her husband of two years before the holidays but met her "breaking point" during a 2003 New Year's Eve party they were hosting.

It was 11:45 p.m. and her husband decided to go to bed, she recalled.

"I got really upset at him," she said. "The person who was supposed to be there couldn't make the sacrifice of 15 minutes when he saw I was clearly upset."

She stayed up most the night reflecting on their relationship, unable to get away from the inevitable conclusion.

"It kept going through my head: This is it. I need to get divorced. I'm past the point of no return," Bassett said.

Their nine-year relationship was strained for the next few weeks until he moved out in March. They soon legally separated and their divorce became final in September 2004.

USC professor Constance R. Ahrons, a family therapist and psychologist, said the normal January spike in failing marriages may extend into February and become exacerbated by Valentine's Day.

"It's a day of expressing love and deep caring," Ahrons said. "It may also happen that if people are having marital problems and Valentine's Day comes along and no caring is expressed ... it may be for some people that rude awakening or that last step."

Torrance family law attorney Bruce Mandel, said he has received some post-Valentine's Day calls over the years from people who discovered e-mails or receipts indicating that their spouses were celebrating their love with someone else.

"You're being told that this is what you should expect, and then you discover what you have," said Dr. Willard Harley, a radio host who runs MarriageBuilders.com. "We have a lot of people tell us, 'Here it is, Valentine's Day has come and gone, and I never even got a valentine card.' "


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