As soon as the calendar turns to December we’re bombarded with all things holiday. From advertisements, to recipes, to school events and water cooler chatter, we just cannot escape the frenzy of this supposedly joyous time of year. However, for those going through a divorce, the holiday season may be more depressing than delightful. Family traditions are altered, children are struggling, and finances are often tight.
Nonetheless, there are five steps that you can take to try and make the holidays happy despite your divorce:
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1) Share Holiday Time - The holiday season is a busy for family lawyers mostly because so many parties are arguing over custody of their children for the holidays. Don't spend this time (and your money) litigating. When thinking about the holidays, try and put aside your self-interest and focus on what is best for your children. Typically, this means spending time with both parents and their extended family. With the assistance of counsel, or directly if this is possible, try and arrive on a holiday schedule for the children that allows them to participate in as many holiday traditions as possible. If there is a conflict, be flexible. Children are more than happy to eat two holiday dinners or open presents at two different homes. What is most important is to minimize the level of stress and strife for them and for you.
Next: Think About A Budget ==>
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2) Think About Your Budget
-- Finances are frequently a concern during a divorce especially if one party is not working and is solely dependent on the other for financial support. Nonetheless, if you are able to talk with your spouse, see if you can reach an agreement to set aside certain monies for purchasing gifts for the benefit of your children. This can be your first step in learning to communicate openly in the best interest of your kids, which is a skill you will need to utilize post-divorce. If you don't feel comfortable speaking with your spouse directly, your attorney can communicate with opposing counsel on your behalf. If communication is impossible or your spouse is non-responsive, you may need to cut back on the materialism of the holidays and focus on the spirituality instead, which is what the holidays are really about anyway.
Next: Try New Traditions ==>
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3) Develop New Traditions - The holidays bring focus to the family and family traditions. If you are going through a divorce and your family is changing, sadness and depression can take hold. To break free of these feelings, develop new traditions. Donate your time to those who are less fortunate. Visit relatives that you haven't seen in some time. Escape on a vacation.
Next: Your Ex's Plans Don't Matter ==>
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4) Ignore Your Ex's Escapades - Next to custody litigation over holiday schedules, family lawyers spend the holidays listening to their clients complain about their ex's significant other, including the time that is being spent with this person and the money used to buy them gifts. Unless your children are being endangered by the new person in your ex's life or your marital estate is being dissipated with the purchase of extravagant gifts for this person, the healthiest approach to dealing with this situation is to simply ignore it. Focusing on what your soon to be former spouse is doing over the holidays and with whom they are spending time with will give you no advantage in the divorce but will undoubtedly ruin your holidays. Instead, attempt to rebuild your life and move forward.
Next: You'll Survive! ==>
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5) Remember January Is Around the Corner - When you are going through a divorce, the holidays can feel like an eternity. You need to remember to take a step back and get some perspective. January will be here sooner than you know, and oftentimes with a fresh year and a clean slate, parties are more eager to put their differences in the past and resolve their divorce. Use the downtime during the holidays to consider what you need to resolve your divorce and build a positive future.
The upheaval in life associated with a divorce is difficult any time during the year, but it is especially brutal during the holidays. Implementing the foregoing tips and relying on the support of friends, relatives and your professional team (lawyers, therapists, etc.) can assist you in surviving the holidays and moving on with your life.
Jennifer A. Brandt is a family law attorney specializing in divorce, custody, alimony, support and distributions of assets who is a member of the law firm Cozen O'Connor and who answers legal questions on Avvo.com, a free social media platform that provides a legal Q&A forum, directory and marketplace.