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Family Christmas Not So Merry? Managing Divorce and Separation During The Holidays

The Santa Clause, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story–these are just a few holiday movies where family tensions run high–to hilarious effect. But the truth is that family troubles can make the holidays anything but merry.  Here we look at coping with divorce and separation, and what you can do to get through the holidays with the least amount of conflict. This is the third part in our series, The Legal Side of the Holidays.

Don’t try to be too perfect.

If things are tense with your spouse already, adding the stresses of the holiday season can make it unbearable.  For the sake of kids, sometimes its best to try to put conflicts aside during the holidays. Letting go of unrealistic expectations can often relieve some of the pressure as well;  remember that your family doesn’t need to be like The Waltons just because it’s holiday time.  Be flexible, try to take each day as it comes, and don’t try to be too perfect. If that’s just not possible during the holidays and during the rest of the year, your family may be better off exploring your legal options for separation or divorce.

Sometimes being apart is the best option.

No one wants to go through a divorce during the holidays, but because of the stressful nature of the season, for some couples it may be the right time to get a separation. You and your spouse are still legally married after filing a Marriage Separation Agreement, but by living apart you can at least get some space to think about your relationship and your next steps.  Often a separation can give both parties time to think things over.  Remember that a separation does not always end in divorce.

Consider collaborative divorce instead of a traditional divorce.

If you and your spouse decide to go through with the divorce and can agree on the terms, you can create a Divorce Settlement Agreement and avoid expensive and wrenching litigation. While you can create this document without the help of a lawyer, it’s always good idea to get professional input. If you and your spouse are on good terms, a collaborative divorce may be right for you.  For the sake of kids (and your finances), it’s generally faster and less stressful to try to put aside anger and strife, whether or not it’s a holiday.

Think ahead regarding children and custody arrangements.

For divorced couples with children, the holidays come with the additional complication of child custody. It’s important to make sure there is a clear understanding of who gets custody on holidays when the initial custody agreement is drawn up with the court following separation or divorce. Remember that you and your spouse can revisit this agreement whenever there’s a change in your situation. For example, if one parent moves or gets a new job with new hours, you might consider changing the custody agreement. For minor changes or to specify details about a particular visit with the other parent, you can use a you can use a Child Visitation Letter to plan your child’s family time during the holidays.

Read our free legal help articles on Divorce and Child Custody, or go to Rocket Lawyer’s Divorce Legal Center to create divorce and separation documents and find a lawyer.

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