Divorce & the Holidays: 10 Do's & Don'ts of Divorcing During the Holiday Season by 30Seconds Mom
Getting a divorce during the holidays? Jacqueline Newman, a New York City-based divorce lawyer and experience matrimonial law expert, shares some do's and don'ts of divorce during the holiday season.
- Don't allow the divorce to ruin your holiday spirit. So the lights are not as bright and the holiday songs are a bit more annoying than normal, but that does not mean that holiday spirit as you know it is over. The fact is that while this year may be tough, the next year will be easier. The best present you can give to yourself when going through a divorce (besides maybe an extra Santa gift for yourself) is allowing yourself to know you will survive this. Spend the holiday with friends (the family you choose for yourself) and do whatever you can to get through the season with as much dignity and joy as you can.
- Don't take this opportunity to discover religion. So, you are Jewish and never celebrated Christmas in your life, until you met your spouse. Now, that you have had a few Christmas dinners under your belt, you now want to be able to spend Christmas with your children when you know that it is a very very very important holiday for your spouse and his/her family. I am not going to belittle the commercial charm of Christmas and the sparkle in your child's eyes when she comes down on Christmas morning in her feety PJS and sees the piles of presents waiting for her. It would be very upsetting to miss that. However, unless you are going to get a tree and replicate the holiday the way that the Children have experienced it during the marriage, you should give the day to the spouse who will really celebrate it. Use the leverage for getting some other times of the year that are very important to you and more importantly, let your Children maintain the very special holiday in the way that they remember it.
- Don't let the sentimentality of the holiday season weaken your positions if you are going to regret them. It is the season of giving – just be sure not to give away everything you hold near and dear. You have been working so hard all year to reach a settlement and there are certain positions you have maintained and are very important to you. While I am not advising that you maintain positions that are not important but just fun to hold on to, I am saying that do not let the eggnog go to your head and you agree to things that you will regret come January 2.
- Don't become Super Santa because of guilt. This is the first Christmas without your children, so you decided to celebrate the week before. Because you feel so terrible about the impending divorce and want your children to have as much fun on December 18 as well as on December 25, you buy out Toys R Us. There are a few reasons to not do this. 1) If you are divorcing, odds are your expenses are a bit tighter than normal and you have that extra budget item of legal fees; 2) Your spouse is going to be furious that you are spending money like wildfire; but most importantly; 3) Depending on the age of your child, he/she will know what is happening. Now again, depending on the age of the child, he/she may not care why it is happening, but you will. You do not need to buy your children's affections – they love you regardless if you get them a hoverboard or a skateboard.
- Don't make your children feel badly that you are alone during the holidays. One of the hardest parts of divorce, I am told by my clients, is the first holiday that they are apart from their children. The children feel badly, the parents feel badly, the parents' parents feel badly. It is tough. However, it is your job as a divorcing parent of children to make the holiday season as happy as it can be for the children. Therefore, if they think they are leaving Mommy or Daddy alone drowning in eggnog and fruitcake, they will not be able to enjoy their time with the other parent. Putting on a strong front and letting them know that it is OK for them to enjoy the holidays with the other parent is an important (albeit maybe painful) message to get across to them. It will also make it much easier when it your holiday time with the children next year.
- Do make all efforts to be on the "nice" list. The holidays are an emotional time for many people and even more so when those people are going through a divorce. It is very tempting (sometimes more than the holiday chocolates) to want to be vindictive and do things to annoy your soon-to-be ex or ex during the holiday season. My advice is to resist. If you are close to a settlement, do not let the stress or emotions of the holiday time get to you and set you backwards when you are so close to letting it all end.
- Do make sure that your holiday parenting access schedule is clear. There is nothing worse that the call at 8 on Christmas Eve from a client in a panic because the spouse is not producing the children for the vacation plans she had and she does not know what to do. Even though you try to call the spouse's attorney, the attorney is not picking up, all courts would be closed and there is really little to do. When you finally get in touch with the attorney who is already a few drinks in, he tells you that it was his understanding that the children were to go to your client on Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve. Please make sure that everyone is on the same page about the scheduling. If an agreement has not been officially prepared yet and arrangements are made more loosely over email, it is easy for misunderstandings to happen. In the same vein, also be sure to make sure that everyone is clear on how the children's days off from school during this period are being covered (especially when the nanny is also going away).
- Do stay off social media. Drinking at holiday parties and champagne on NYE and slow times at work are all the ingredients for people spending more time on social media. Be careful – do not take this opportunity to bash your soon-to-be ex on Facebook or Twitter. Stick to posting cute pictures of your kids or your dog in Santa hats.
- Do take the slow time at work to do your divorce homework. Divorce is sometimes another full-time job. Gathering documents, putting together budgets, working on schedules, etc. It often conflicts with the other fulltime jobs such as the one that pays the bills and also the other fulltime job of being parents. Sometimes, not always, work can be slower during the holiday time. Also, the children are out of school and if vacations are being split between the spouses, the Children are away and the house is quiet for some time. Take this time to gather your documents and do your budget. Help your attorney help you so that when everyone returns for vacation, you will be ready and prepared to move forward with your case.
- Do let the New Year start new. If you are holding on to the fight over the last cushion on the couch, let it go. While this may seem contradictory to the don't above, the key is to figure out what really matters and what does not. Let your case end and let 2018 be a year of new beginnings.