Divorce Tips From Caesar in Honor of the Shortest Day of the Year

divorce-tips-from-caesarWe made it.  Today may be the winter solstice, but tomorrow we turn the corner and begin the annual progressive march into light.

We humans are so attached to light that we operate on a solar calendar.  Ideally, the first day of the solar year and the first day of the calendar year would be lined-up, one and the same.  Given that “Post-Truth” has been declared the 2016 word of the year, I want to tell you a little bit about why January 1, and not December 22 (the day after the shortest day of the year), is the calendar new year.

I promise that if you hang in I will eventually explain what this all has to do with divorce.

But first, let’s learn about . . .

Julius Caesar and the Year of Confusion

Obligatory Colosseum Selfie

Obligatory colosseum selfie attempt.

According to history.com, soon after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was in dire need of reform.  Rome’s calendar had diverged from the seasons by some three months.  Caesar caught up by decreeing a single, 445-day-long “Year of Confusion” (46 B.C.) to correct the long years of drift in one go.

Bold move, right?  Fix your problem, all at once, albeit with a fiction.  (Imagine adding 89 days to 2016?  Thanksbutnothanks.)

Caesar’s hired gun the Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes calculated a solar year to be 365 and 1/4 days.  So, Caesar decreed that every four years a day be added to February, thus theoretically keeping his calendar from falling out of step.

But here’s the rub.  Sosignes was close, but technically a solar year is actually 365.242 days.  That made Caesar’s calendar year some 11 minutes shorter than its solar counterpart, so the two diverged by an entire day every 128 years.

Pope Gregory XIII Cleans Up

pope-gregory-painting11 minutes seem like a di minimus differential, but fast forward to the 16th century and Pope Gregory XIII, and this small discrepancy had caused important dates, including the Christian holidays, to drift by some ten days. Gregory found the situation untenable and unveiled the Gregorian calendar in 1582.

Gregory prospectively fixed the 11-minute shortage by dictating that leap years divisible by 100, like the year 1900, are skipped unless they’re also divisible by 400, like the year 2000, in which case they’re observed.  Dropping those three leap days every 400 years keeps the calendar on time.

That took care of the future, but how did Gregory fix the existing ten-day drift?   He took a page from Caesar’s book and dropped ten days from the month of October in 1582.

(As an aside, shortly before his assassination in 44 B.C., Caesar changed the name of the month Quintilis to Julius (July) after himself, and Gregory names the whole calendar after himself.  Hopefully, in Fall 2017 I’m not writing to you about “Divorce and Trumptober.”)

What can we learn about divorce from Caesar and Gregory?

First Divorce Lesson: Problem Solve

Caesar and Gregory each had a problem and took bold, creative steps to fix it.  Divorcing is an overwhelming process.  Try to focus on finding solutions to issues that arise, and don’t count out the unconventional.

Second Lesson: Hire Experts

You have to give Sosignes — and Caesar for hiring Sosignes — a lot of credit.  His math worked for 1,600 years before Gregory got ticky.  Even experienced divorce counsel won’t be able to predict the future, but you will benefit from their experience, training, and insights.

Third Lesson: Be Flexible

A 41 day October is better than a 445 day year.  When something isn’t working, correct course like Gregory.  For example, discuss modifying your parenting plan before resentment grows.  No one needs a familial year of confusion.

Fourth Lesson: Good is Good Enough

Gregory’s system remains what we use today.  It produces an average year length of 365.2425 days, just half a minute longer than the solar year. At such a rate it will take 3,300 years before the Gregorian calendar moves even a day from our seasonal cycle.

So, 3,000 years from now, a future generation might decide to tweak leap year.  For now though, good is pretty darn good, and it is certainly is good enough.

The same goes for you as you navigate your divorce.  Do your best, but, for goodness sake, cut yourself some slack.  After all, you’ve already survived the longest night of the year.


Freed Marcroft’s attorneys guide select clients through the legal aspects of divorce and family law issues while remaining mindful of their overall wellness.

To discuss our helping with your situation, contact us today either here or by phone at 860-560-8160.

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Written by Meghan Freed