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Ho Ho Ho! Can Happy Holidays and Divorce Co-exist?

Categories: Family Law, Article

How to handle the holidays during a divorce

The holiday season tends to bring out the best, or the worst, in people. It is a time to celebrate the joys of life and let the stress of the prior year slip away. Unfortunately, divorce and the holidays tend not to mix well – and parents in the throes of a difficult divorce may find themselves being anything but merry. Divorce does not need to suck the fun out of the holidays. Perhaps a different perspective along with some coping skills will help close out the year gracefully and begin a new one on a positive note.

Flexibility is Key

Accept that traditions and the holidays will be different this year. The parties and family get-togethers do not need to occur on exactly the same day or the same time as in the past. Your kids will not mind if there are two Thanksgiving dinners or they receive Christmas gifts a day early, or even a day late! Divorce is a life changing event and parents should understand that things will be bit different over the holidays. If both parents remain rigid and want the holidays shared exactly as they were in the past, draw lines in the sand, or want all of the holiday time with the children, a judge may be the only one to break the stalemate. Christmas in the Courtroom should be avoided at all costs.

Create New Holiday Traditions

Every tradition has to start somewhere – and what better time than coinciding with a seismic shift in the family dynamic due to the divorce? Look for new dates, new events, and new celebrations. Be creative and encourage your children to do the same.

Ensure the Kids Experience Joy

Different does not mean bad, negative, or less than. Too many divorcing parents believe that kids will not enjoy the holidays because they will be different this year. If you embrace new traditions, the kids will do the same with a smile on their face. Most importantly, push away the guilty feelings you may have that the kids are not experiencing the holidays as they have in the past. The kids will follow your lead – be a positive family leader during the holiday season!

Avoid Being Alone

If your spouse has parenting time on Christmas Day or Thanksgiving, do not crawl into a hole and feel sorry for yourself. Take this as a rare opportunity to engage with friends and family. Experience the holiday from a different perspective. Wallowing in self-pity will only exacerbate the problem and the kids will feed off your negativity when they return to your home. Spread joy, positivity, and seek out new adventures. Your friends and family will welcome you with open arms. See this as an opportunity to have that extra glass of eggnog you have always wanted.

Your Ex is Not the Enemy!

Christmas in the Courtroom is a real Ba-Humbug! Not only will both parents be robbed of holiday joy but also it will bring conflict and distress to your children. I always tell clients that they need to make their love for their children more important than their frustration, dislike, or hatred of their spouse. During the holiday season, the concept of working cooperatively with your spouse is even more important. Make concessions for the sake of the children. Recognize and accept that this holiday season may be different.

So, during this holiday season take care of yourself and embrace your new reality. Help others, help your kids, and stay positive. This is not the season to make everything about you.


About the Author: Laurence Hirsch is a family law attorney at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk PC. He is a member of the State Bar of Arizona in the Family Law and Young Lawyers sections. He was formerly the Vice President of the Maricopa County Bar Association, Family Law Section. More recently, Larry was selected as a 2012 and 2013 Southwest Super Lawyer Rising Star and also chosen by the Phoenix Business Journal for induction into the 2011 class of "Forty Under 40". He has expertise representing high net worth individuals who have closely held businesses in their marital community.


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